Sixteen pupils and two parents waiting with them for their school bus were stabbed by a man wielding knives in Kawasaki near Tokyo on Tuesday morning, leaving a girl and a man dead, police and school officials said.
The 16 schoolgirls, students at Caritas Elementary School, a private Catholic school in the city, were attacked by the suspect, identified by police as 51-year-old Kawasaki resident Ryuichi Iwasaki, who was holding knives in both hands.
Iwasaki died in the hospital as a result of a self-inflicted stab wound to the neck, police said.
A boy also sustained minor injuries in the attack, they added.
The police are planning to refer the case to prosecutors for murder and other allegations.
The incident occurred at around 7:40 a.m. on a street near a park in a residential area, about 250 meters from Noborito Station on East Japan Railway Co.'s Nambu Line and Odakyu Electric Railway Co.'s Odakyu Odawara Line.
Officials of the school, which provides eight morning shuttle buses for students between the station and the school, said the attack occurred as pupils were waiting for the sixth bus.
"I was standing at the front of the line of children waiting for the sixth bus, and when I finished helping around six children board, I heard children screaming at the end of the line," Satoru Shitori, vice principal of the school, said in a press conference.
Shitori said that was when he saw the suspect, holding what appeared to be long knives, escaping on foot.
As the bus driver got off and started to give chase, the vice principal made an emergency call to police, he said.
"The children did nothing wrong. I don't know what to do with my anger," another school official said at the news conference. The school will close through the end of this month.
According to witnesses, the suspect slowly approached the children and was shouting "I'm gonna kill you" during the rampage. He had close-cropped hair and was wearing glasses.
The police retrieved two knives at the scene and found two more in a backpack believed to belong to the suspect.
Of the victims, an 11-year-old girl, identified as sixth-grader Hanako Kuribayashi of Tama, western Tokyo, and Satoshi Oyama, a 39-year-old Foreign Ministry official who was the father of an unharmed pupil, died in the hospital from stab wounds to their necks, according to police and hospital officials.
Oyama, a Myanmar language interpreter, also sustained cuts to his back, which he might have received while trying to protect the children, the investigative sources said.
Two girls and a woman in her 40s sustained serious injuries in the attack, the police said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government "must ensure children's safety by all means." He instructed the education minister and the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission to check on safety measures taken while elementary and junior high school students are commuting.
Caritas school officials met the press after convening an emergency meeting with pupils' parents in the afternoon.
The school operator was founded by Soeurs de la Charite de Quebec, an organization of Catholic nuns in Quebec City in Canada, according to the school's website.
Pools of blood were left at the scene, cordoned off by investigators.
"I heard a man and a woman screaming," said a 50-year-old woman who lives in the neighborhood. "I rushed out of my house and saw many ambulances."
Knives are among the most commonly used weapons in random attacks in Japan, where tight gun controls are in place.
Major violent rampage cases in Japan in the recent years:
Sept. 8, 1999 -- Man attacks pedestrians with a knife and hammer in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district, killing two and injuring six.
Sept. 29 -- Man kills five people and injures 10 after driving a car into a crowd at JR Shimonoseki Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture before stabbing passersby.
June 8, 2001 -- Knife-wielding man enters an elementary school in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, killing eight students and wounding 15 other pupils and teachers.
March 23, 2008 -- Man stabs pedestrians with a knife near a shopping mall in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, leaving one man dead and seven others injured.
June 8 -- Man kills seven people and wounds 10 after mowing down pedestrians with a truck in a vehicle-free zone before going on a stabbing spree with a knife in Tokyo's Akihabara district.
June 22, 2010 -- Former temporary worker of automaker Mazda Motor Corp. hits employees with a car at a plant in Hiroshima Prefecture, leaving one man dead and 11 wounded.
July 26, 2016 -- Former employee of a residential mental health care facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, stabs residents and employees, killing 19 disabled people and injuring 26 others.