Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

The assailant, an 18-year-old new recruit, is said to have fired a rifle with “intent to kill”. Two people were killed and one injured.

Two soldiers were killed and another wounded Wednesday in a shootout at a Japanese army firing center in Gifu (central Japan). “During a live-fire exercise as part of training for new recruits, a candidate for the Self-Defense Forces shot three people,” the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force said in a statement, later confirming the deaths of two soldiers. The alleged perpetrator, a new recruit, was quickly arrested. According to a local police spokesman, the suspect “fired a rifle” with “intent to kill”.
The alleged murderer was an 18-year-old new recruit who had joined the army in April, Yasunori Morishita, commander of the Ground Self-Defense Force, told a press conference. This tragedy “is absolutely unforgivable for an organization in charge of handling weapons, and I take it very seriously”, he declared. The three victims were in charge of initiating new recruits to shooting, including the alleged assailant, who was overpowered and arrested by other soldiers on the scene.

The shooting range, a covered facility covering more than 65,000 m², is operated by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Series of attacks in Japan

Violent crime is rare in Japan, where firearms legislation is extremely restrictive. And General Morishita pointed out on Wednesday that, to his knowledge, the previous case of gun violence caused by a member of the Ground Self-Defense Force dates back to 1984.

However, several recent attacks have shaken the archipelago, starting with the murder last July of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, killed by a homemade firearm during an election campaign speech.

Last April, incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was targeted by a homemade explosive device, also during an election event. He escaped unhurt, but two other people were slightly injured.

The army’s bad reputation

Japan’s law enforcement agencies have been on their toes since these high-profile attacks on political figures. Thousands of police officers were deployed to the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima (western Japan) last month. At the end of May, a madman killed four people, including two police officers, in a knife and shotgun attack in Nagano (central Japan).

The Gifu tragedy comes at a time when the Japanese army, which is still struggling to establish its legitimacy in a country with a pacifist post-war constitution, is facing chronic recruitment difficulties. Its image has also been tarnished over the past year by revelations of sexual assaults within its ranks. This is not making things any easier for the Japanese government, which wants to double its defense budget to around 2% of national GDP by 2027 in order to cope with growing geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

By admin