Group of Japanese girls attacked with saws

TOKYO (AP) – Heavily popular Japanese girl pop group AKB48 canceled fan events on Monday after a saw-wielding man attacked two members and a staff member, shocking the nation and raising questions about safety.

The two members of the group, Anna Iriyama, 18, and Rina Kawaei, 19, suffered hand and head injuries, and the staff member who tried to stop the attack on Sunday during a fan event in northern Japan had cuts in their hands. All three left the hospital on Monday evening.

The women, wearing hats and covering their hands with white towels, appeared before a huge crowd of reporters outside the hospital and thanked fans for their concern.

“We worried you, but we are going back to Tokyo now,” Kawaei said. “Thank you so much.”

The attack on the group, whose members are dubbed “the idols you can meet” because of their fan events, rocked people in a country known for public safety. The news dominated television entertainment shows and even the two national newspapers Yomiuri and Mainichi.

On Sunday, the group performed a mini-concert for hundreds of fans in Takizawa town which was followed by a handshake event, where fans who buy special CDs can shake hands and briefly chat. with their favorite member. As soon as the handshake began, a man pulled a foldable saw from his jacket and walked over to the two women, who were standing at the entrance to one of the many tents set up inside. a gym.

Police arrested 24-year-old unemployed Satoru Umeta on suspicion of attempted murder.

Iwate Prefecture Police Chief Takahiro Fujibayashi said Umeta told investigators he was not an AKB48 fan and just wanted to commit a random murder.

Fujibayashi said there had not been full security checks of the bags and the suspect may have hidden the saw in a bag he had at the time of his arrest.

AKB director Hiroshi Yuasa told reporters he believed the security checks were appropriate but would review the security measures.

Dozens of AKB48 handshake events are held in Japan every year. Bouncers – referred to here as “peelers” – are assigned to these events to eliminate lingering fans, but no major attacks have been reported before.

“It’s good that they’re close to the fans, but we have to remember that it’s possible for people like (the striker) to sneak up,” popular talk show host Seiji Miyane said in his NTV program. He said the handshake is one of AKB48’s main calls, but the risk needs to be reduced.

Twitter and other social media sites have been inundated with comments about the incident, many of which have raised concerns about security checks. AKB48 members remained silent on the matter.

“Such an incident should never have happened. Even if they recover from their physical injuries, their emotional scars will never heal,” tweeted former AKB48 member Erena Ono.

AKB48 management announced on Monday that it was canceling a concert at its main theater in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, as well as several other events across Japan. Subsidiaries SKE48 in central Japan and MNB48 in Osaka have also canceled or postponed events.

Established in 2005, the group has a rotating cast of over 90 young women and affiliates across the country and in Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

AKB48 and its affiliates have regularly held charity concerts in northern Japan since March 2011 to boost fan morale in the disaster-stricken region.

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