World

Suspect named in Japan animation studio fire


Japanese police have named the man suspected of carrying out a deadly arson attack on an animation studio.

Shinji Aoba was taken into police custody in hospital and was being treated there for burns.

The fire swept through Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) on Thursday, claiming at least 33 lives and injuring many in one of Japan’s worst mass killings in years.

People who witnessed Shinji Aoba’s arrest said they heard him complaining that the company had stolen his ideas.

Police said the attacker entered the building and splashed flammable liquid from a bucket before setting it alight, and shouted: “Die!”

In the wake of the attack, dozens of people gathered outside the premises of the studio, laying flowers and offering prayers. A crowd funding campaign has so far raised more than $1.3m (£1.04m) to assist victims and their families.

KyoAni produces films and graphic novels and is well regarded by fans for the quality of its productions.

Police detained Shinji Aoba on suspicion of setting fire to the building. Mr Aoba allegedly accused the animation studio of plagiarising his novel. He was taken to hospital for treatment and had not been formally interviewed about his motive.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that he had a criminal record and was previously jailed for stealing money from a convenience store. Kyoto Animation’s president said he had recently received threatening letters but had no idea if they were connected to the attack.

The fire broke out at the three-storey building at about 10:30 local time (01:35 GMT) on Thursday. Eyewitnesses described a loud explosion followed by the blaze, which people jumped out of windows to escape from.

“It was like I was looking at hell,” a local woman told Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Around 70 people were in the building when the fire started, and some 36 people have reportedly been taken to hospital.

Authorities said most of the victims were found piled up on a stairway leading from the building’s third floor up to the roof, where they collapsed trying to escape.

Kyodo news agency said firefighters had found the door to the roof was shut, leaving people trapped inside. A Kyoto fire official also told Reuters news agency that the building did not have any sprinklers or indoor fire hydrants – but did not need them to comply with Japan’s fire code. –BBC

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