Former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving leader, died on Friday after being shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, public broadcaster NHK said.
A man opened fire on Mr. Abe, 67, from behind with an apparently homemade gun as he spoke at a drab traffic island in the western city of Nara, Japanese media showed earlier. It was the first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese premier since the days of pre-war militarism in the 1930s.
Speaking before Mr. Abe’s death was announced, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the shooting in the “strongest terms” while Japanese people and world leaders expressed shock at the violence in a country in which political violence is rare and guns are tightly controlled.
“This attack is an act of brutality that happened during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” said Mr. Kishida, struggling to keep his emotions in check. A fire department official had said Mr. Abe appeared to be in a state of cardiac arrest when airlifted to hospital.
Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shooting had been arrested. NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him.
A fire department official had said Mr. Shinzo Abe appeared to be in a state of cardiac arrest when airlifted to hospital. Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shooting had been arrested. NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him.
Airo Hino, political science professor at Waseda University, said such a shooting was unprecedented in Japan. “There has never been anything like this,” he said. Senior Japanese politicians are accompanied by armed security agents but often get close to the public, especially during political campaigns when they make roadside speeches and shake hands with passersby.
In 2007, the mayor of Nagasaki was shot and killed by a yakuza gangster. The head of the Japan Socialist Party was assassinated during a speech in 1960 by a right-wing youth with a samurai short sword. A few other prominent postwar politicians were attacked but not injured.
Police said the suspected shooter was a resident of Nara. Media said he had served in Japan’s military for three years until 2005. Defence Minister Kishi declined to comment on that.
Shinzo Abe served two terms as Prime Minister, stepping down in 2020 citing ill health. But he has remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling one of its major factions.
Mr. Kishida, Abe’s protege, had been hoping to use the election to emerge from Mr. Abe’s shadow and define his premiership, analysts have said. Mr. Kishida suspended his election campaign after the shooting. All main political parties condemned the attack.
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