Longest serving Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is dead. He was shot at about 11:30am in the prefecture of Nara.
Abe, 67, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister who stood down in 2020, was taken to hospital on Friday after being shot in the neck and left collarbone in Nara, a city south of Kyoto.
He was shot in the chest and near the neck by a man who approached him from behind as he spoke in the city of Nara, according to witnesses, authorities and video footage.
Abe, who was 67 years old, was Prime minister until late 2020 and was one of Japan’s best known but polarising politicians.
He was the de facto leader of the largest faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and wielded strong influence in the government despite standing down as prime minister in September 2020.
The attack happened while he was campaigning for the party’s candidates in a national election of the upper house of the Diet on Sunday.
The attempted assassination of Abe has sparked condemnation from political leaders across the world.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said the shooting was a “very, very sad moment”. “Our thoughts, our prayers are with him, with his family, with the people of Japan,” Blinken said on the sidelines of the G20 foreign minister’s meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
The alleged assailant, reportedly a 42-year-old local man, was arrested at the scene. There is no known motive at this time, but there are reports the suspect is a former member of the Japanese Maritime Self-defence Forces.
Abe was seen lying bleeding on the ground, before being taken to a nearby hospital by helicopter. Emergency services reported him as being in a state of cardiac arrest.
Political violence, and gun violence in general, is extremely rare in postwar Japan, so this incident has deeply shocked the Japanese public. Gun ownership is tightly regulated, and mostly restricted to registered hunters.
There have been occasional shootings by organised crime groups, typically targeting each other, but Japan has consistently had low rates of violent crime.