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Slasher attacks Japan pop girl group AKB48 at fan event

TOKYO (Reuters) - A man wielding a saw slashed and injured two members of Japanese female pop group AKB48, rated by Guinness as the world's biggest such group, at a fan event in Japan, leaving the country stunned at the extremely rare violent crime.

The group, known for its perky routines, was shaking hands with fans at a meet-and-greet function on Sunday, when the man attacked them with a weapon described variously as a 50-cm (20-inch)-long saw or a hatchet, Japanese media said.

"This sort of thing is unimaginable," one fan told Japanese television. "I'm in shock."

Group members Rina Kawaei,19, and Anna Iriyama, 18, received emergency surgery for cut and broken fingers, with Iriyama also suffering cuts to the face, media said.

"The surgery ended successfully and their condition is stable," their manager said. "They should be able to leave hospital tomorrow."

A male staff member received cuts to his hand.

Police arrested a 24-year-old high school dropout for attempted murder after the event, in the northeastern city of Takizawa, was interrupted by screams of "Stop!" and "No!"

There were no bag checks, and fans have said most of the group's events have only cursory checks at best, prompting newspapers to call for tighter security. The incident featured on several newspaper front pages and television shows.

Security checks tend to be light in Japan, which has stiff gun control laws, and violent crime involving weapons is rare.

AKB48, founded in 2005, is known for its high "kawaii," or cuteness, quotient, and all its members are in their teens or early 20s.

Fans vote each year to determine 64 of the most popular girls from a 237-member pool, who then rotate in and out of four main troupes and several affiliated groups, based on their popularity.

The "AKB" in the group's name is a reference to Akihabara, Tokyo's high-tech mecca, where it has a theater. They are also popular overseas, with a sister group based in Jakarta.

Every year fans elect the most popular members of the group, obtaining a ballot by buying the group's latest CD. Some hard-core fans buy hundreds to give their favorite a boost.

A Tokyo concert by the group scheduled for Monday night has been canceled, as have other meet-and-greets, their management company said on its website.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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