Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, attends the trilateral leaders' meeting between China, South Korea and Japan in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (Wang Zhao/Pool Photo via AP)

Shinzo Abe: Japan ex-PM assassinated at campaign event

Country’s longest-serving premier shot twice in attack on the election campaign trail

The former prime minister of Japan was assassinated on Friday, July 08, 2022, in the city of Nara. He served in the office longer than anyone before stepping down in 2020.

Shinzo Abe, the Country’s longest serving premier, was stumping behind a traffic barrier on a street near a train station in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, in support of of Kei Sato, a fellow member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Shaking his fist and shouting into a microphone, Mr. Abe, in speech, praised the 43-year-old Upper House incumbent as a hope for the future of Japanese politics.

Mr. Abe had been speaking for less than a minute when two loud sounds, like gunshots, rang out behind him.

Yoshio Ogita, 74, secretary general of the local chapter of the L.D.P., was standing next to Mr. Abe. He heard two loud sounds and saw a plume of white smoke rising to the sky. “I didn’t know what had happened,” he said in a phone interview. “I saw him collapse.”

Mr. Abe toppled from a small 20-inch riser, on which he had been standing to rise above the crowd. A reporter for NHK, the public broadcaster, who covered the speech said Mr. Abe crumpled to the ground after the second shot, clutching his chest.

Three men in suits, believed to be part of the former prime minister’s security detail, pinned down a man in a grey T-shirt and khaki pants. The man had tossed aside what appeared in video and photos to be a crude gun.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested, and police said they retrieved a gun from the scene. Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene, and as emergency workers rushed to administer CPR, Mr. Abe was covered with a large blue tarp.

Suspect
Local media reports say he is believed to be a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, Japan’s equivalent of a navy.

According to local news analysis, the shooter may have built the gun himself. Photographs taken as the suspect was being apprehended show what looks like an improvised, or homemade, double-barrelled shotgun.

Gun violence is very rare in Japan, and guns are extremely difficult to own. Political violence is also extremely rare.

Mr Abe did have a team of security police with him. But it appears the shooter was still able to get to within a few metres of Mr Abe without any sort of check, or barrier.

The shooting of such a prominent figure is profoundly shocking in a country that prides itself on being so safe.

Mr Abe’s speech came as part of a campaign for his former party, the Liberal Democratic Party, as upper house elections in Japan are due to take place later this week.

Ministers across the country were later told to return to Tokyo immediately, according to local reports.

On Japanese social media, the phrase “We want democracy, not violence” was trending, with many social media users expressing their horror and disgust towards the incident.

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