Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has died after being shot while giving a campaign speech, an occurrence that is shocking in a country where gun violence is very rare.
Abe was in the southern city of Nara giving a speech backing a candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party he was a member of ahead of Sunday’s upcoming elections.
At about 11:30 local time Abe was shot while campaigning, as he addressed the public when a suspect approached from behind and shot him twice, leaving him suffering
wounds to his chest and neck.
The people rushed for safety as paramedics rushed to offer him first aid before he was taken to hospital where he succumbed unluckily to the bullet wounds.
“Shinzo Abe was transported to (the hospital) at 12.20 pm. He was in a state of cardiac arrest upon arrival. Resuscitation was administered. However, unfortunately, he died at 5:03 pm,” said Professor Hidetada Fukushima at Nara Medical University hospital.
This saddening assassination of the country’s best-known politician comes amid Japan’s strict gun laws and with campaigning underway ahead of upper house elections on Sunday.
Earlier on the Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had abandoned the campaign trail and flew to Tokyo by helicopter where he addressed reporters while filled with emotions, “Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot in Nara,” he said, condemning “a barbaric act
during election campaigning, which is the foundation of democracy.”
“It is absolutely unforgivable. I condemn this act in the strongest terms,” he added
The attack came before noon in the country’s western region of Nara, where Abe had been delivering a stump speech with security present, but spectators able to approach him easily.
Footage broadcast by NHK showed him standing
on a stage when a man dressed in a grey shirt and brown trousers begins
approaching from behind, before drawing something from a bag and firing.
At least two shots appear to be fired, each
producing a cloud of smoke. As spectators and reporters ducked, a man was shown
being tackled to the ground by security. He was later arrested on suspicion of
attempted murder, reports said.
Local media identified the man as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, citing police sources, with several media outlets describing him as a former member of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the country’s navy.
He was wielding a weapon described by local media as a “handmade gun”, and NHK said he told police after his arrest that he “targeted Abe with the intention of killing him”.
Upon onset of investigations, explosives have been retrieved from the suspect’s house as the police rolled out an intensive investigation into the issue.
Officials from the local chapter of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party said there had been no threats before the incident and that his speech had been announced publicly.
PM Kishida said “no decision” had been made on the election, though several parties announced their senior members would halt campaigning in the wake of the attack.
President Uhuru Kenyatta joined fellow world leaders in mourning Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who died today after being shot at a political campaign meeting.
Former Prime Minister Abe, who retired in 2020, visited Nairobi in 2016 during the 6th TICAD conference, in which he held bilateral talks with President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi.