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9 hurt as car rams into famed Tokyo street on New Year's Eve
[TOKYO] Nine people were hurt, one seriously, when a man deliberately ploughed his car into crowds celebrating New Year's Eve along a famous Tokyo street, police and media said Tuesday.
With an "intent to murder", 21-year-old Kazuhiro Kusakabe drove a small vehicle into Takeshita Street in Tokyo's fashion district of Harajuku at 10 minutes past midnight, a police spokesman told AFP.
According to national broadcaster NHK, Kusakabe told police he was acting in "retribution for the death penalty" without giving more precise details.
NHK footage showed a small box vehicle with a smashed front and paramedics carrying people on stretchers into ambulances.
One witness told NHK it was a "ghastly scene".
"I saw some guys collapsed on the street. As I walked closer toward the scene, many more people had fallen on the ground. By the time I reached the exact place, paramedics were already there helping people," he said.
Another witness who runs a clothing shop in the area said: "I am shocked that something like this happened on Takeshita Street."
Police immediately cordoned off the street, which was packed with people celebrating the New Year.
One college student suffered serious injuries during the attack and was undergoing surgery, the police spokesman told AFP.
Kusakabe was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.
According to local media, Kusakabe hit a total of eight people and assaulted another on the street, which was closed to car traffic at the time as revellers packed the area to celebrate New Year.
Takeshita Street is packed with small shops and is considered the centre of youth culture and fashion in Japan, attracting tens of thousands of international tourists every day.
Unlike in other major cities, New Year in Tokyo is a relatively muted affair.
There is no major fireworks display and no central point where drunken revellers gather to see in the New Year.
Instead, Japanese people tend to see in the New Year with families and quietly go to the shrine to pray for good fortune in the year to come.