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Japan police detain hostage-taker after hours-long standoff in post office

SAITAMA: Japanese police have detained a suspected gunman who holed up in a post office on Tuesday (Oct 31) with several hostages, after wounding two others in an earlier shooting at a hospital.

After an hours-long standoff in Warabi in Saitama prefecture, police finally detained the man late Tuesday evening.

“The man has been detained. Details will come later,” a spokesman for Saitama Prefecture Police outside Tokyo told AFP. 

The motive of the gunman, reportedly in his 80s, was unclear.

He had holed himself up in the post office at about 2.15pm with “what appears to be a gun”, the city authorities had said on their website.

Later, as police negotiated with the man, television footage showed a woman in her 20s, believed to have been a hostage, walking out of the post office shortly before 7.30pm.

The Asahi Shimbun daily reported that police stormed the building at about 10.20pm, took the man into custody and confiscated his gun.

“This is a quiet neighbourhood. I can’t believe something like this is happening,” resident Tetsuo Sasaki, 70, told AFP.

“I used that post office just yesterday,” said his wife Reiko Sasaki, 64. “I could have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. I could have been the target.”

According to NHK, the suspect was earlier involved in a shooting at a hospital in the neighbouring city of Toda and then fled the scene to the nearby city of Warabi in the same prefecture.

Two people were slightly wounded – reportedly a doctor and a patient – after shots were apparently fired from the street into the hospital.

“After 1pm, I heard a woman shouting ‘Someone, please come,’ and a nurse told me, ‘Stay away from the windows and keep your head low,'” a man in his 60s who was inside the hospital told broadcaster NHK.

“Around 2pm, I looked inside the doctor’s office and saw a pool of blood next to an examination table. I didn’t hear a gunshot. But a nurse said she heard two gunshots,” the man said.

Fuji TV said police were also investigating a possible link between the man and a fire at an apartment building in Toda earlier in the day. No one was injured in the fire, it said.

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