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JAPANESE community struggles to recover from stabbing deaths of eight children

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IKEDA, Japan (AP) _ Wisps of smoke from Buddhist funerary incense filled the air Saturday as mourners clasped their hands in prayer at the gates of an elementary school that was the site of Japan's worst mass killing in years.

Residents in Ikeda struggled to contain their shock after a man with a history of mental problems carried a kitchen knife into the school Friday and slashed at children, killing eight and wounding fifteen other people, including two teachers. Ikeda, outside Japan's second-largest city of Osaka, is about 250 miles west of Tokyo.

Kaori Yasunaga, the 36-year-old mother of a fifth-grader at the school, said her daughter gets upset when pictures of her slain friend, Ayano Moriwaki, appear on television.

``Whenever she sees Aya's picture, she cries out, 'But I just saw her yesterday,''' Yasunaga said, clutching a bouquet of flowers. ``Right now, she doesn't want to go to school.''

The school rampage _ and a series of other attacks _ shattered Japan's longtime sense of public safety and caused many to ask whether school administrators are reacting quickly enough to the rise in violence.

Separately on Saturday, police were questioning an 11-year-old boy on suspicion of stabbing a friend in a park in Fukuoka state, about 560 miles southwest of Tokyo, police spokesman Kazuyuki Yano said.

Junta Toyofuku, also 11, was stabbed 13 times but his injuries did not appear life-threatening, hospital spokesman Nobuo Kaku said. A motive for the stabbing was not immediately clear. Police said at first that they were searching for an adult assailant.

In Friday's attack, the suspect _ identified as Mamoru Takuma _ allegedly stormed through four classrooms before being subdued by a teacher and a vice principal. It was the worst mass killing in Japan since a deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways six years ago.

Eight victims remained in serious condition Saturday.

Takuma, 37, told police he had tried to kill himself repeatedly but always failed, adding that he had taken 10 times the daily dose of an unspecified anti-depressant before waging his assault. Investigators searched his house Saturday, a police official said, without providing details.

Mitsuyo Itami, 71, whose granddaughter knew one of the slain children, said authorities should have kept a closer eye on Takuma before the attack.

``If he was such a troublemaker, the police should have done something to keep him off the streets,'' she said.

After meeting with about 800 parents and teachers on Saturday, Principal Yoshio Yamane said the school would have a guard on duty Monday, but could not say when classes would resume.

``There may be students who will never be able to return to the school,'' Yamane said, his eyes red and his voice cracking with emotion. ``The trauma runs very, very deep.''

The attack may prompt Tokyo to revise laws on crimes by mentally ill people, Kyodo news agency quoted Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as saying in a taped interview with national broadcaster NHK on Saturday.

``We are beginning to see cases in which those (with mental illness) who are arrested return to society and commit crimes again,'' Kyodo quoted Koizumi as saying in the interview, to be broadcast Sunday. ``The safe society is crumbling, and this is a significant incident.''

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