Tokyo, Jul 18 (AP/UNB) — A man screaming "You die!" burst into an animation studio in Kyoto, doused it with a flammable liquid and set it on fire Thursday, killing 33 people in an attack that shocked the country and brought an outpouring of grief from anime fans.
Thirty-six others were injured, some of them critically, in a blaze that sent people scrambling up the stairs toward the roof in a desperate — and futile — attempt to escape was proved to be Japan's deadliest fire in nearly two decades. Others emerged bleeding, blackened and barefoot.
The suspect, identified only a 41-year-old man who did not work for the studio, was injured and taken to a hospital. Police gave no details on the motive, but a witness told Japanese TV that the attacker angrily complained that something of his had been stolen, possibly by the company.
Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, which does work on movies and TV productions but is best known for its mega-hit stories featuring high school girls. The tales are so popular that fans make pilgrimages to some of the places depicted.
The blaze started in the three-story building in Japan's ancient capital after the attacker sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, police and fire officials said.
"There was an explosion, then I heard people shouting, some asking for help," a witness told TBS TV. "Black smoke was rising from windows on upper floors. Ten there was a man struggling to crawl out of the window."
Japanese media reported the fire might have been set near the front door, forcing people to find other ways out.
The building has a spiral staircase that may have allowed flames and smoke to rise quickly to the top floor, NHK noted. Fire expert Yuji Hasemi at Waseda University told NHK that paper drawings and other documents in the studio also may have contributed to the fire's rapid spread.
Firefighters found 33 bodies, 20 of them on the third floor and some on the stairs to the roof, where they had apparently collapsed, Kyoto fire official Kazuhiro Hayashi said. Two were found dead on the first floor, 11 others on the second floor, he said.
A witness who saw the attacker being approached by police told Japanese media that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting the fire with a lighter. She told NHK public television that the man had burns on his arms and legs and complained that something had been stolen from him.
She told Kyodo News that his hair got singed and his legs were exposed because his jeans were burned below the knees.
"He sounded he had a grudge against the society, and he was talking angrily to the policemen, too, though he was struggling with pain," she told Kyodo News. "He also sounded he had a grudge against Kyoto Animation."
NHK footage also showed sharp knives police had collected from the scene, though it was not clear if they belonged to the attacker.
Survivors said he was screaming "You die!" as he dumped the liquid, according to Japanese media. They said some of the survivors got splashed with the liquid.
Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include "Lucky Star" of 2008, "K-On!" in 2011 and "Haruhi Suzumiya" in 2009.
The company does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired to do secondary animation work on a 1998 "Pokemon" feature that appeared in U.S. theaters and a "Winnie the Pooh" video.
"My heart is in extreme pain. Why on earth did such violence have to be used?" company president Hideaki Hatta said. Hatta said the company had received anonymous death threats by email in the past, but he did not link them to Thursday's attack.
Anime fans expressed anger, prayed and mourned the victims on social media. A cloud-funding site was set up to help the company rebuild.
Fire officials said more than 70 people were in the building at the time.
The death toll exceeded that of a 2016 attack by a man who stabbed and killed 19 people at a nursing home in Tokyo.
A fire in 2001 in Tokyo's congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in the country's worst known case of arson in modern times. Police never announced an arrest in the setting of the blaze, though five people were convicted of negligence.
Hong Kong, Jul 17 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of Hong Kong senior citizens, including a popular actress, marched Wednesday in a show of support for youths at the forefront of monthlong protests against a contentious extradition bill in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The seniors also slammed the police for their handling of a protest Sunday in Hong Kong's Sha Tin district. That protest was mostly peaceful but ended in mayhem when violent scuffles in a shopping mall saw dozens injured, including a policeman who had a finger bitten off, and over 40 people detained.
Veteran actress and singer Deanie Ip, who joined Wednesday's demonstration, said police shouldn't use heavy-handed tactics against young protesters who "have no guns" and were peacefully expressing their frustrations.
"They are young people and they are doing the right thing. Why are they being mistreated?" she said.
Ip and several others held a banner reading "Support youth to protect Hong Kong" as they marched through a financial district. Wearing white tops and black pants, marchers held placards that read "Never give up" and "Stay together."
Dozens of seniors carried a 6-meter-long (20-foot-long) black banner that read "Reject tyrannical rule."
Some elders in wheelchairs also joined the march. Organizers said about 8,000 people participated in the demonstration.
Hong Kong has been jolted for over a month by a series of large-scale and occasional violent protests amid widespread anger over a proposed extradition law that would send suspects to mainland China to face trials. The bill is seen as a threat to Hong Kong's freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when China took back control of the former British colony in 1997.
Even though Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, suspended the bill and declared the legislation "dead," her moves failed to placate the protesters, who have demanded her resignation. Tens of thousands have continued to take to the streets, with the protests expanding into a bigger movement against China's growing intrusion into the territory.
The senior citizens Wednesday repeated demands for the legislation to be formally withdrawn, for the release of dozens of people detained and for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality against protesters.
More protests have been planned, which could cause further instability in the global financial hub.
Phil Chan, a senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, said violent clashes between protesters and police could intensify unless the government starts to engage meaningfully with the people in meeting some of their demands, including the move toward universal suffrage.
"The government at present is merely engaging in verbal dissemblance," Chan said. "As the political crisis drags on, it will become increasingly difficult for the Hong Kong government to resolve, and police-community relations will take a long time to heal. It will become a lose-lose situation for both Hong Kong society and the Hong Kong government, and instability in Hong Kong can never be good for Beijing."
Multan, Jul 17 (AP/UNB) — Pakistan on Wednesday arrested a radical cleric and U.S.-wanted terror suspect implicated in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, officials said, just days ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan's trip to Washington.
Hafiz Saeed was taken into custody in Punjab province while traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the city of Gujranwala, according to counterterrorism official Mohammad Shafiq.
Saeed founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, which was blamed for the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. His charity organizations, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat, are alleged fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The United States has offered a $10 million reward for Saeed's arrest and Washington recently stepped up pressure on Islamabad to crack down on terror groups.
In response, Pakistan registered over a dozen cases against Saeed and several of his associates, accusing them of funding militant groups through charities and leading to Wednesday's arrest.
"After a ten year search, the so-called "mastermind" of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan," President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday. "Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!"
Prime Minister Imran Khan was to leave for Washington over the weekend on his first official visit to the United States as premier.
After his arrest, Saeed was taken before a judge and was ordered held in jail until the next hearing on Tuesday, Shafiq said. The cleric had been en route to Gujranwala to post bail in the terror financing case but was detained before he could do so.
In Pakistan, a suspect can be free on bail pending investigation and trial.
Saeed's spokesman Nadim Awan denounced the arrest and said the cleric had dissociated himself from Lashker-e-Taiba in 2001 and has had no links with the organization since then. Lashker-e-Taiba was banned in 2002.
Awan said they would challenge Saeed's arrest before a higher court.
Until the terror financing case, Saeed had for months lived freely in Pakistan, often addressing anti-India rallies for which he became popular amid a dramatic confrontation between the two nuclear-armed rivals earlier this year.
Saeed's two charities were banned in February last year, and the government froze their assets in compliance with a U.N. request. Pakistan's Supreme Court last September allowed them to resume operations only to be banned again earlier this year under a government action plan against terrorism and extremism.
Previously, Saeed had been detained several times, along with some of his close aides, but had not been charged or put on trial.
He was taken into custody in January last year and kept under house arrest for 11 months until a court order ended his detention in November. He was also detained in 2001 and 2008, when he was kept confined to a government-run house and at his home.
In recent months, the government also took over schools, mosques, seminaries and all properties linked to Saeed's charities and froze their assets.
Pakistan is currently on the Financial Action Task Force's grey list, denoting its status as a haven for money laundering. It has until October to avoid black listing.
Colombo, July 17 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Center (DMC) on Wednesday said the number of people affected by the severe dry weather across the island country had risen to over 550,000.
In a statement, the DMC said that as of Wednesday noon, 567,662 people belonging to 159,123 families had been affected by the dry weather and drought and steps were being taken to provide them with clean water for basic necessities.
Assistant Director of the Disaster Management Center Pradeep Kodippili said that officials were continuing to send water bowsers into the areas to supply fresh water to the families.
New Delhi, July 17 (Xinhua/UNB) -- India has received as many as 516 fishermen along with 32 fishing boats stranded in Bangladesh, confirmed an official statement issued by the Ministry of Defence on Wednesday.
The repatriation of fishermen and boats, from Bangladesh to India, was done by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in a coordinated operation with the Bangladesh Coast Guard (BCG).
The boats were stranded and had taken shelter at the Payra Port in Bangladesh, approximately 135 km from the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) due to inclement weather and rough sea conditions in the Bay of Bengal.
According to the statement, the fishing boats were escorted by two BCG ships, Mansoor Ali and Sadhini Bangla, up to the IMBL where they were formally handed over to ICG ships, Vijaya and Anmol.
Meanwhile, search for remaining 24 missing Indian fishermen is in-progress by the BCG, naval ships, aircraft in Bangladesh waters. Besides, ICG ships, hovercraft and aircraft are also carrying out search off India's eastern state of West Bengal coast along the IMBL.
The coordinated response between the Coast Guard agencies of India and Bangladesh demonstrates a mutual commitment to the safety of fishermen at sea and further strengthens the bilateral relationship between the two countries, added the official statement.