Police inspect a car whose driver rammed his vehicle into crowds on Takeshita Street in Tokyo. Twitter

At least nine people were injured, when a car deliberately plowed into crowds celebrating the New Year in central Tokyo, Japan, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The incident occurred on the well-known Takeshita Street in the shopping and tourist district of Harajuku, which runs parallel to the famous Meiji shrine.

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With an “intent to murder”, a man identified as 21-year-old Kazuhiro Kusakabe drove a small vehicle into the street at 10 minutes past midnight, a police spokesman told AFP.

According to national broadcaster NHK, Kusakabe told police he was acting in “retribution for the death penalty” without giving more precise details.

NHK footage showed a small box vehicle with a smashed front and paramedics carrying people on stretchers into ambulances.

Local media said a container with kerosine inside was found in the rental car, where the attack occurred. The attacker reportedly drove the vehicle from the western region of Osaka.

Police immediately cordoned off the street, which during the day is usually packed with tourists trying to get a taste of Japan’s extravagant youth and food culture.

One college student suffered serious injuries during the attack and was undergoing surgery, the police spokesman told AFP. Local media reports said the student was in a coma.

Kusakabe was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.