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Masked man with knife and gun kills three in Japan’s Nagano prefecture

TOKYO — A masked man armed with a knife and a rifle killed a woman and two police officers in the central Japanese prefecture of Nagano, according to state broadcaster NHK, citing police reports.

A fourth person was injured. The gunman, who was wearing camouflage clothing, a mask and sunglasses, stabbed the woman and then opened fire with what appeared to be a hunting rifle when police arrived.

The three victims were taken to a hospital, where they died. Police said the attacker was now barricaded in a building. Television images showed police in bullet proof vests near the building with an ambulance nearby.

Gun crimes are extremely rare in Japan, where firearms are strictly regulated. The fatal shooting of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at a campaign event last year with a homemade weapon shocked the country.

What are Japan’s gun laws? Abe killing shocks nation with few shootings.

Anyone trying to obtain a gun in Japan needs to apply for a permit, attend a class on gun safety and laws, and pass a written test. There is a full-day training course on safe shooting techniques.

There are multiple rounds of checks and verification on the gun owner’s background and health, including information about their family, mental health, personal debt and criminal record. The gun must be registered with and inspected by police.

Last year there were nine shootings with four deaths and two injuries recorded in the country — six of those shooting involved the yakuza criminal network, according to the National Police Agency.

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