Trainee shoots and kills two Japanese soldiers at firing range

TOKYO — A soldier-in-training shot three members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces at a firing range on Wednesday, killing two of them, police said.

The 18-year-old trainee fired a rifle at the soldiers during a shooting exercise about 9 a.m. local time at the facility in Gifu, in central Japan. The three men — one in his 50s and the other two in their 20s — were taken to a hospital, where two of them died, police said.

The trainee was arrested at the range on attempted murder charges and said there was “no denying” he shot the victims, according to police.

The trainee, who was not identified, joined the Self-Defense Forces in April. The victims were the soldiers training him, Yasunori Morishita, chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defense Force, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. All shooting exercises were halted Wednesday at Self-Defense Forces facilities after the incident.

The fatal shooting of former prime minister Shinzo Abe last year shocked Japan, because gun violence — especially shootings unrelated to yakuza gang activities — is relatively rare in Japan, where firearms are strictly controlled. The shooting at the firing range is the first such incident in nearly four decades, when a 21-year-old shot four people at a Self-Defense Forces shooting range, killing one and injuring three.

What are Japan’s gun laws? Abe killing shocks nation with few shootings.

Last month, a man fatally stabbed a woman in Nagano prefecture, in central Japan, and opened fire on officers with what appeared to be a hunting rifle, killing two of them. A fourth person was also killed.

Pietsch reported from Seoul.


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