Japanese police rescue bank hostages

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IOL pic nov23 yellow crime tape Independent Newspapers

Tokyo - Japanese police rescued four hostages from a bank and arrested the knife-wielding man who had held them captive for more than 12 hours while demanding the prime minister resign, officials announced on Friday.

In a televised news conference, a police spokesperson said the hostage-taker, identified as Koji Nagakubo, was arrested on suspicion of taking a total of five people captive, including one person whom he had released earlier.

All the hostages were safe and in protective custody, the spokesperson said, though local media reported one of them was slightly injured.

The 32-year-old man began the siege on Thursday afternoon at the Zoshi branch of the Toyokawa Shinkin Bank in central Aichi prefecture.

Wielding a survival knife, he took four employees and a female customer captive and was demanding the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda step down, as well as asking to speak to journalists, local media said.

Noda last week called an election for December 16. He is expected to lose, with polls suggesting the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party will take the greatest share of seats.

About 13 hours after the incident began, police wearing protective gear with shields rushed into the office before dawn and overpowered the man and escorted out the remaining four hostages.

Television footage earlier showed a man who appeared to be a police officer carrying a megaphone and a plastic bag to a side door of the building guarded by police. The building's shutters were down it but lights could be seen inside. - Sapa-AFP

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