Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot in the back at a political rally for his party yesterday and succumbed to his injuries.
Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, a towering political figure at home and abroad, died after being shot at a campaign event Friday, doctors said, shocking a nation where firearms laws are among the world’s strictest and gun violence is rare.
Abe, 67, was stumping for a fellow politician from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Nara, near Osaka, on Friday morning when a gunman opened fire with what police described as an improvised weapon.
Hidetada Fukushima, head of the emergency center at the Nara Medical University Hospital, said Abe had no vital signs when he arrived there at 12:20 p.m. Friday. Doctors found two gunshot wounds to his neck, and one of the bullets had reached his heart, Fukushima said. Despite efforts to save him, including a transfusion, Abe died of blood loss less than five hours later.
The assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, and a staunch U.S. ally, sent shock waves throughout the country ahead of elections for the upper house of parliament on Sunday.
Police arrested a suspect, a man from Nara in his 40s named Tetsuya Yamagami, and seized a gun. Yamagami was a member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years, defense officials told Japanese media.
Footage of the event showed Abe giving a speech, then a plume of smoke forming behind him as he collapsed. Officials ran to apprehend the shooter, who appeared to be positioned behind Abe. Videos showed a chaotic scene with Abe, unmoving, lying on the ground as attendees yelled for an ambulance. The bullet wounds were found in the front of Abe’s body, Fukushima said.
Abe, who came from a prominent political family, was the youngest person to become prime minister of postwar Japan. His popularity soared after he resigned from office in 2020, and he remained a power broker who frequented campaign events to support other LDP politicians.
At an emotional news conference after Abe’s death, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida praised his former colleague as “a dear friend who loved this country.”
“To lose such a figure in this manner is absolutely devastating,” he said.
Kishida said Sunday’s upper house election would continue as planned but with enhanced safety measures, saying it was important to protect the democratic process and not allow violence to change its course.
“Elections are the foundation of democracy, which we must defend. We cannot give in to violence. For this reason, we will continue to fight the election campaign until the very end. I hope the people of Japan will think about and work hard to protect this democracy,” Kishida said.