Alleged hospital shooter barricades himself in post office, takes hostages in Japan

 A man took two people hostage and barricaded himself inside a post office in a town north of Tokyo, after he had allegedly shot two people at a nearby hospital on Tuesday.

Emergency services received several calls shortly after 1pm local time reporting gunshots at Toda General Hospital in Saitama prefecture, just north of the capital city.

A doctor and a patient were injured, although neither were in danger and it was unclear whether they were hurt by the alleged shooter.

According to the latest reports by public broadcaster NHK, the alleged gunman, an octogenarian male resident of Toda, reportedly fired from the street, fled the scene on a motorcycle and barricaded himself inside a post office in the nearby town of Warabi, about 1.5 km away from the hospital.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing gunshots from inside the post office.

Local authorities confirmed that the man barricaded himself inside with two hostages – both female postal employees. There were reportedly several workers and customers when the man allegedly broke in.

One of the hostages, a woman in her 20s, escaped the building under her own power about five hours later, apparently unharmed. The other woman remains on the premises.

Officials have asked residents in the vicinity to stay away from the post office and to follow police instructions.

At the moment there are no reports of any other injuries apart from those at the hospital, the circumstances of which were being investigated.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police have dispatched a specialized team and security forces have blocked roads around the post office, while communicating with the man by telephone to try to persuade him to release the other hostage and surrender to authorities.

The municipalities of Toda and Warabi have urged residents to avoid going outside while the man allegedly responsible for the incident is still at large, and instructed 18 local schools to keep students indoors until further notice.

Police have set up a security perimeter of about 200 meters around the post office and ordered residents within a 400-meter radius to leave the area, according to Nikkei newspaper.

Authorities were also investigating a fire at a house in Toda about 1 km from the hospital, around the time of the shooting there, which they believe could be the residence of the alleged perpetrator.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga