- This is a breaking news story. More to follow
Japanese police have surrounded a post office as a suspected gunman held an unknown number of people hostage, following a possibly-linked shooting at a nearby hospital.
Several police cars surrounded the post office in Warabi city as night fell, after the shooter took an unknown number of hostages at 2:15pm local time today.
Authorities in Warabi city, on the south-eastern coast of Japan, said today: ‘At approximately 2:15 pm today, a person took hostages and holed up at a post office in Chuo 5-chome area of Warabi city… The perpetrator is possessing what appears to be a gun.’
The as-yet-unnamed gunman was reported to possibly be in his eighties, and was seen wearing a baseball cap and a white shirt under a dark coat, with what looked like a gun attached to a cord around his neck.
Local media reported that at least two female post office workers, in their 20s and 30s, have been taken. A Japanese daily newspaper reported that the gunman may have as many as 10 people with him.
The shooter may also be carrying paraffin or kerosene, both of which can be used to start large fires quickly.
The hostage situation came shortly after two people were injured at a hospital shooting only a mile away, and the two incidents are believed to be linked.
A doctor in his 40s and a patient in his 60s were lightly wounded after shots were apparently fired from the street into a ground-floor room at a general hospital.
‘After 1 pm, 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.
Neither of the victims’ wounds were life-threatening, and both of them are reportedly conscious.
The shooter reportedly fled from the scene on a motorbike.
Violent crime, especially incidents involving guns, is rare in Japan, but in recent years, there has been a growing concern about handmade weapons.
There were just nine shooting incidents last year, according to the national police agency, of which six were related to criminal gangs.
Those incidents resulted in four fatalities, including the killing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by a man with a homemade gun at a campaign rally in July 2022.
More to follow.