Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, assassinated during a campaign freeze


  • Prime Minister Kishida denounces attack on ‘foundation of democracy’
  • Police arrest suspect at the scene of the attack
  • Attacker apparently used homemade gun – NHK
  • Political violence rare, weapons strictly controlled in Japan

NARA, Japan, July 8 (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, died Friday after being gunned down during his parliamentary election campaign. checked.

The gunman opened fire on 67-year-old Abe from behind as the former prime minister addressed the crowd on a drab traffic island in the western city of Nara. Japanese media reported that the weapon appeared to be a homemade pistol.

“This attack is an act of brutality that took place during the elections – the bedrock of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Abe’s protégé, who is struggling to control his emotions.

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It was the first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese leader since a coup attempt in 1936 that killed several figures, including two ex-prime ministers.

Doctors were unable to resuscitate Abe, who was taken to hospital in cardiac arrest and showed no vital signs. He was pronounced dead at 5:03 PM (0803 GMT), about five and a half hours after being shot.

He bled to death from deep wounds to the heart and right side of his neck, despite receiving more than 100 units of blood in transfusions over four hours, Hidetada Fukushima, the professor in charge of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University Hospital, told reporters. broadcast at a press conference.

Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of committing the shooting has been arrested. NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, telling police that he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him. The suspect told police he had made several handmade explosives and guns in the past, NHK said.

BANG AND THEN SMOKE

Reuters Graphics

Abe was making a campaign speech outside a train station when two shots were fired. Security officials then saw a man in a gray T-shirt and beige pants attack.

“There was a loud bang and then smoke,” businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was on the scene, told Reuters.

“With the first shot nobody knew what was going on, but after the second shot, something that looked like special police grabbed him.”

Kyodo news service published a photo of Abe lying face up in the street near a guard rail, blood on his white shirt. There were people around him, one of whom was giving chest compressions.

Later in the day, members of the public laid flowers at the spot where Abe fell.

Senior Japanese politicians are accompanied by armed security officers, but often get close to the public, especially during political campaigns when they give roadside speeches and shake hands with passers-by.

Political violence is rare in post-war Japan. In 2007, the mayor of Nagasaki was shot and killed by a yakuza mobster. The head of the Japanese Socialist Party was assassinated during a speech in 1960 by a right-wing youth with a samurai sword. A few other prominent politicians were attacked but not injured.

The suspected shooter was a Nara resident, police said. Media said he served three years in the Japanese military until 2005.

Abe served two terms as prime minister and resigned in 2020 due to ill health. But he remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which controlled one of its main factions. read more

Kishida, who came to power last year, had hoped to use the election to emerge from Abe’s shadow and determine his premiership, analysts said. Kishida suspended his election campaign after the shooting. All major political parties condemned the attack.

‘VERY VERY SAD’

On the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Indonesia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Abe’s murder “shocking” and “deeply disturbing” and described him as a leader with great vision. read more

The United States is Japan’s main ally.

Similar messages of sympathy and shock poured in from around the world following the news of Abe’s death, including from neighboring Taiwan, China and Russia, as well as across Asia, Europe and the United States.

The yen rose and Japan’s Nikkei index (.N225) fell after news of the shooting, driven in part by a fleeting flight to safety.

Abe is best known for his “Abenomics” policy of aggressive monetary easing and fiscal spending. read more

He also boosted defense spending after years of declines and expanded the military’s ability to project power abroad.

In a landmark shift in 2014, his administration reinterpreted the post-war, pacifist constitution to allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.

The following year, legislation ended a ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense or defending a friendly country under attack.

However, Abe never achieved his goal of revising the US-drafted constitution by writing the self-defense forces, as the Japanese military is called, in the pacifist Article 9.

Abe first took office in 2006 as Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II. After a year ravaged by political scandals, voter outrage over lost pension records and election abuse for his ruling party, Abe stopped mentioning ill health.

In 2012, he became prime minister again.

Abe came from a wealthy political family, including a father of a foreign secretary and a grandfather who was prime minister.

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Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Nara, Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Reuters employees; Writing by Robert Birsel and Hugh Lawson; Editing by William Mallard and Peter Graff

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