updated 6/9/2008 4:27:14 AM ET 2008-06-09T08:27:14

The man suspected of killing seven people in a knifing rampage in Tokyo foretold the mayhem in a series of messages posted to the Internet, including one just before the attack saying, "It's time," police and media reports said Monday.

Tomohiro Kato, accused of ramming pedestrians with a truck on Sunday and then stabbing 17 bystanders in Tokyo's Akihabara district, posted a string of messages on an Internet bulletin board from his cell phone, a police spokesman said.

The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, citing protocol, refused to release the messages, but news reports said they were posted in a threat titled, "I will kill people in Akihabara," starting hours before the stabbings.

"I want to crash the vehicle and, if it becomes useless, I will then use a knife. Goodbye, everyone," Kyodo News agency quoted one message as saying.

That was followed chillingly several hours later, the report said, by a message sent from Akihabara via cell phone that read: "It's time."

The killing started 20 minutes later.

Limited glimpse inside mind
The reported messages gave Japan a limited glimpse into the mind of man accused of one of the worst knife attacks in Japanese history. Police say the assault was the deadliest stabbing assault in Tokyo in recent memory.

Kato said he had "gotten sick of the world," police said, but investigators are still trying to find out his motives and the reason why he chose Akihabara, or whether he had planned the criminal act over the past few days as reported.

Police say Kato — reportedly a factory worker — rammed a rented two-ton truck into a crowd of afternoon shoppers in Akihabara, a prime shopping area for electronic goods and a hangout for young people, particularly comic book fans.

Kato himself reportedly had a penchant for computer games and anime — like vast numbers of Japanese youths. Kyodo said that he listed a female computer game character as his "favorite person" in his junior high school yearbook.

After ramming the pedestrians, the killer jumped out and began stabbing the people he had knocked down with the truck before turning on horrified onlookers, police said.

Japanese police arrested the 25-year-old blood-spattered man at the scene.

The assault shocked Tokyo, which has a relatively low murder rate, because of its seeming mindlessness.

On Monday, the crime scene was covered with offerings of flowers, comic books and soft drinks left for the souls of the dead. The offerings were shielded from the rain by a small white tent.

Growing fears
Takashi Kiuchi, who was on a high school judo team with one of the victims, said many Japanese live with the assumption that their country is safe, but that assumption was under attack.

"It's gotten so you can't even walk down a crowded street," he said.

Kato reportedly made his way to Tokyo from a neighboring region where he worked and headed for Akihabara because its main streets are closed to cars and open to large numbers of pedestrians on Sundays.

Guns are tightly restricted in Japan, and shootings are extremely rare, with the one exception being gangsters, who most often use them against each other and do not generally victimize the general public.

Rare attacks
Stabbings, however, are less rare.

In March, one person was stabbed to death and at least seven others were hurt by a man who went on a slashing spree with two knives outside a shopping mall in eastern Japan. In January, a 16-year-old boy attacked five people in a shopping area, injuring two of them.

A spate of knife attacks also have occurred in schools, the worst on June 8, 2001, when a man with a history of mental illness burst into elementary school near Osaka killing eight children. He was executed in 2004.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters Monday the government was considering tightening restrictions on large-bladed survival knives like the one apparently used in the attack, which had a 13-centimeter blade and is easily available in stores.

"Everyone says that Japan is a safe country, but I'm not sure if that's true anymore," said Sayaka Itoda, a young woman who came to donate flowers at the memorial, which stood on a street in front of an electronics store and a giant TV display screen.

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