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Five people killed in stabbing spree in Japan

Attack: Police at the scene of the murders in Japan
Attack: Police at the scene of the murders in Japan

Five people have been killed in their homes in a stabbing spree in rural Japan, police said, in a rare case of major violence in the country.

A 40-year-old neighbour of the victims was arrested in connection with the attacks, said Keizo Okumoto, deputy police chief in Sumoto, a small city on an island in western Japan where the incident happened.

Mr Okumoto identified the suspect as Tatsuhiko Hirano, an unemployed man. The motive was unclear, and police have yet to find the weapon used in the attacks.

A man and a woman were found dead in one house, and another man and two women from a nearby house died after being taken to hospital, Mr Okumoto said. The victims ranged in age from 60 to 80 years old, according to media reports.

Violent crime is relatively rare in Japan, and even more so in most small towns. Sumoto, a city of 44,000 people on Awaji island, is known for its oranges, onions and Awaji beef. Japanese television stations showed the victims' homes surrounded by agricultural fields.

"Normally, we get one call a day, if that," Mr Okumoto said. "And usually it's about a bike theft or someone getting beaten up."