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Seven young Japanese found suffocated to death in a car are believed to have died as a result of an internet suicide pact, Reuters reports.

The seven - four men and three women - were discovered in the vehicle in Minano, near Tokyo. The deceased sealed the car windows from the inside and lit charcoal burners. They succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Shortly after the grisly discovery, police found another car to the south of Tokyo containing the bodies of two women, although whether this second apparent suicide is related remains unconfirmed.

Police say that one of the seven deceased sent an email on Monday to a friend declaring his intention to kill himself. "We believe they got acquainted through the internet," said a police spokesman. Authorities report that since police became aware of internet suicide pacts in early 2003, 34 people had died as a result.

More than 34,000 Japanese killed themselves in 2003 - a seven per cent rise on 2002. Economic difficulties and social alienation have been fingered as possible causes for the high rate of suicide among Japan's young people. Many websites cater for the country's terminally depressed, and services range from bringing together those wishing to end it all, to recommending the best locations to die. ®

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