Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is dead after being shot on Friday morning, a doctor involved with his treatment said at a press conference.
The 67-year-old was shot from the back when he was giving a campaign speech in the city of Nara ahead of legislative elections on Sunday. Photos by witnesses and news photographers show Abe collapsed on the ground with his shirt covered with blood.
Hidetada Fukushima, a professor in charge of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University Hospital, said Abe arrived at the hospital showing no vital signs with two small wounds on his neck. He said the bullet that killed Abe was deep enough to reach his heart and the doctors failed to resuscitate him.
Kishida, the current leader, returned from a campaigning event in Yamagata prefecture to Tokyo.
“I believe that this is a despicable and barbaric act that occurred in the midst of an election that is the core of democracy, and it cannot be forgiven,” an emotional Kishida told journalists on Friday afternoon before Abe was confirmed dead.
Abe was Japan’s longest running prime minister until he retired two years ago, citing poor health. He served as premier from 2006 to 2007, then a second term from 2012 to 2020.
The politician was known for his conservative agenda and “Abenomics” policy to address Japan’s deflation. He pushed to remilitarize the country in response to an increasingly powerful and assertive China.
The attack has stunned Japan, a country with one of the lowest gun crime rates in the world. Such violence against political leaders is rarer still.
“We again condemn this unforgivable act of brutality with the utmost outrage, and we pray for the safety of former Prime Minister Abe,” Yuichiro Tamaki, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, said in a tweet.
Police have arrested and identified the suspect as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami for attempted murder, NHK reported. He was apprehended on site following the shooting. Police found what appeared to be a homemade weapon.
An NHK journalist reported that Abe collapsed after the second of two shots, following which a white billow of smoke was seen behind the politician.
Yamagami served in Japan’s self-defense force for three years until 2005 and is a resident of Nara prefecture, NHK reported.
According to the police, Takahashi said he was “dissatisfied with former Prime Minister Abe and wanted to kill him,” NHK reported.
This is a developing story.