TOKYO — Japan hanged two convicted murderers Tuesday, including a man who strangled two schoolgirls with his bare hands, as the country stepped up executions amid concerns over crime and widespread public acceptance of capital punishment.
Japan executed nine convicted killers in 2007, while the number so far this year is 15.
The two hanged on Tuesday were Michitoshi Kuma, 70, and Masahiro Takashio, 55, the justice ministry said in a statement.
Kuma kidnapped two 7-year-old girls on their way to school in southern Japan in February 1992 and strangled them, dumping their bodies in the mountains.
Takashio was convicted of breaking into a house in northern Japan in March 2004 and stabbing a 55-year-old woman and her 83-year-old mother to death before stealing 50,000 yen, about $500.
“Both crimes stemmed from cruel motives and took the precious lives of victims,” Justice Minister Eisuke Mori told reporters. “The crimes caused grave sorrow to the families of the victims.”
The hangings followed three executions in mid-September.
Japan, which in the past has faced criticism for keeping prisoners on death row for decades before their executions, has increased the pace of hangings in recent years.
Executions are not announced beforehand and are carried out in secret.
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