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Suspect in Japan anime studio arson reportedly had grudge

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TOKYO — The man suspected of setting ablaze a beloved Japanese animation studio, killing 33 people, was raging about theft and witnesses and media reported he had a grudge against the company, as questions arose why such mass killings keep happening in the country.

Police only have said the suspect Shinji Aoba, 41, who is hospitalized with severe burns and unable to talk, is from near Tokyo and did not work for the studio, Kyoto Animation.

Japanese broadcaster NHK and other media, quoting an unnamed source, said Friday that Aoba spent 3 ½ years in prison for robbing a convenience store in 2012 and lived on government support.

An investigator takes pictures inside the Kyoto Animation Studio building destroyed in an arson attack Friday, July 19, 2019, in Kyoto, Japan. (AP)

An investigator takes pictures inside the Kyoto Animation Studio building destroyed in an arson attack Friday, July 19, 2019, in Kyoto, Japan. (AP)

The man told police that he set the fire because he thought “(Kyoto Animation) stole novels,” according to Japanese media. It was unclear if he had contacted the studio earlier.

The company founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni made a mega-hit anime series about high school girls and trained aspirants to the craft.

The shocking attack left another 35 people injured, some critically. It drew an outpouring of grief for the dead and injured, most of them workers at the studio.

Kyoto prefectural police chief Hideto Ueda solemnly laid flowers at the site, now a charcoal shell, vowing for the utmost in the investigation to find motives behind the attack, which he described as “unprecedented and unforgivable.”

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