MORIOKA–Two members of the popular idol girls group AKB48 who were attacked by a saw-wielding man at a fan event have had their injuries treated and are expected to be released from the hospital around noon on May 27.
Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18, were injured by the assailant as they participated in the handshaking event at the Iwate Industry Culture and Convention Center in Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, on May 25.
"The surgeries have been successful, and their conditions are stable," Hiroshi Yuasa, the 51-year-old manager of AKB48 Theater, told reporters on May 26 in front of the Iwate Prefectural Advanced Critical Care and Emergency Center, where the two members are hospitalized.
Iwate prefectural police said they have arrested Satoru Umeta, an unemployed 24-year-old from Towada, Aomori Prefecture, on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with the attacks.
Umeta has admitted to police that "there is no doubt I have hurt somebody," according to sources. The police are investigating his possible motives.
"He was never into idol girls. I have never heard him talk about AKB48," said Umeta's mother, 58, responding to questions from reporters in front of their house on the night of May 25. "He's shy about meeting strangers, so I don't think he would go to a handshaking event."
At the session on May 25, about 5,000 fans gathered to meet the members waiting in separate tents, according to AKB48's management office.
Around 4:55 p.m., a man suddenly took out a 50-centimeter-long saw and attacked the two members and a male staff member. The assailant was subdued and was turned over to police, who arrived a few minutes later.
"He (the assailant) was not carrying any luggage with him, but he suddenly took the weapon out from under his jacket and attacked the two members," said Tomonobu Togasaki, head of the AKB48 customer center.
According to Yuasa, Kawaei had her right thumb cut and broken, and Iriyama suffered the same injuries to her right pinky, along with a cut to her head. The members received emergency operations to treat their wounds.
The male staff member, who suffered an injury to his left hand, was released from the hospital on May 26.
The AKB48 group has been popular as "idols you can meet in person," regularly hosting events where fans could chat with and shake hands with their favorite members. However, following the attack, events relating to the group were cancelled or postponed across the nation on May 26.
At the Iwate handshaking event, the office had guards and staff members totaling about 100 on hand. Hands of fans were checked prior to the handshaking and bags were inspected at random.
"As routine measures, there were no problems with our security precautions," Yuasa said. "But now with our members injured, we must reconsider our security measures."