Japan’s ex-Prime Minister Abe assassinated while delivering election campaign speech
- Prime Minister Kishida denounces the attack on the “foundation of democracy”
- Police arrest a suspect at the scene of the attack
- The attacker apparently used a homemade weapon – NHK
- Political violence rare, weapons tightly controlled in Japan
NARA, Japan, July 8 (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, died on Friday hours after he was shot while campaigning for parliamentary elections, shocking a country in which political violence is rare and firearms closely linked. controlled.
A man opened fire on Abe, 67, from behind with an apparently homemade weapon as he spoke on a lackluster traffic island in the western city of Nara, Japanese media reported.
It was the first assassination of a Japanese former or prime minister since the days of pre-war militarism in 1936.
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Doctors struggled to save Abe but he died at 5:03 p.m. (0803 GMT), about five and a half hours after being shot.
He bled to death from two deep wounds, one on the right side of his neck, a doctor told a nationally televised press conference. The former chief had no vital signs when he was brought in.
Speaking ahead of news of Abe’s death, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the shooting in the “strongest terms”, while the Japanese people and world leaders expressed their shock.
“This attack is an act of brutality that occurred during elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” Kishida said, struggling to contain his emotions.
Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shooting has been arrested. NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was unhappy with Abe and wanted to kill him.
Abe was giving a campaign speech outside a train station when two shots rang out. Security guards were then seen tackling a man dressed in a gray t-shirt and beige pants.
“There was a loud bang followed by smoke,” businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was at the scene, told Reuters.
“The first shot, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special police tackled him.”
Earlier, the Kyodo News Service published a photo of Abe lying face down on the street near a railing, blood on his white shirt. People were crowded around him, one of them giving CPR.
Abe received more than 100 units of blood in transfusions over four hours while he was hemorrhaging from a heart injury, said Hidetada Fukushima, professor in charge of emergency medicine at the university hospital. Nara Medical. He arrived at the hospital in cardiorespiratory arrest and was never resuscitated.
Airo Hino, a professor of political science at Waseda University, said such a shooting was unprecedented in Japan. “There has never been anything like it,” he said.
High-ranking Japanese politicians are accompanied by armed security guards but often close in on the public, especially during political campaigns when they deliver roadside speeches and shake hands with passers-by.
In 2007, the mayor of Nagasaki was shot dead by a yakuza gangster. The leader of Japan’s Socialist Party was assassinated during a speech in 1960 by a right-wing youth with a samurai shortsword. A few other prominent post-war politicians were attacked but not injured.
Police said the suspected shooter was a resident of Nara. Media said he served in the Japanese military for three years until 2005. Defense Minister Kishi declined to comment on this.
Abe served two terms as prime minister, stepping down in 2020 due to health issues. But he remained a dominant presence on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling one of its main factions. Read more
Kishida, Abe’s protege, hoped to use the election to step out of Abe’s shadow and define his position as prime minister, analysts said. Kishida suspended his election campaign after the shooting. All major political parties condemned the attack.
‘VERY VERY SAD’
Speaking ahead of news of Abe’s death, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed deep concern over his condition.
“Our thoughts, our prayers are with him, with his family, with the Japanese people,” Blinken said on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Indonesia.
The United States is Japan’s most important ally.
The yen rose and Japan’s Nikkei index (.N225) fell on news of the shooting, in part due to an instinctive flight to safety.
Abe is best known for his “Abenomics” policy of aggressive monetary easing and fiscal spending. Read more
It also bolstered defense spending after years of decline and expanded the military’s ability to project power abroad.
In a historic change in 2014, his government reinterpreted the pacifist post-war constitution to allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II.
The following year, a law ended the ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense or defending a friendly country under attack.
Abe, however, never achieved his goal of revising the US-drafted constitution by enshrining the Self-Defense Forces, as the Japanese military called it, in pacifist Article 9.
Abe first took office in 2006 as Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II. After a year plagued by political scandals, voter outrage over the loss of pension records and a humiliating election for his ruling party, Abe resigned citing poor health.
He became prime minister again in 2012.
Abe comes from a wealthy political family that included a foreign minister father and a grandfather who served as prime minister.
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Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Nara, Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Additional Reuters Staff Reports; Written by Robert Birsel; Editing by William Mallard
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