Shinzo Abe was seriously injured during his speech, officials say
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead during a campaign speech in western Japan on Friday and was airlifted to hospital, but he was not breathing and his heart stopped, reports said. officials said.
Local fire chief Makoto Morimoto said Abe was in cardio and pulmonary arrest after being shot and was taken to a prefectural hospital.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene. « A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, regardless of the reasons, and we strongly condemn it, » Matsuno said.
Public broadcaster NHK released footage showing Abe collapsed in the street, with several security guards running towards him. He was reportedly shot minutes after he started talking outside a main train station in western Nara.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Abe, is on his way to Tokyo by helicopter from his own campaign destination in Yamagata, northern Japan. Matsuno said all Cabinet ministers should return to Tokyo after their campaign trips.
In another clip, campaign officials surrounded him to address the popular former leader who is still influential in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and leads its largest Seiwakai faction. Elections for Japan’s upper house, the least powerful house in its parliament, are on Sunday.
Abe was giving a speech when people heard gunshots. He was clutching his chest as he collapsed, his shirt spattered with blood, but was able to speak before he lost consciousness.
The attack came as a shock in a country that is one of the safest in the world and has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper printed additional editions, which were quickly grabbed by people on the streets to read about the shooting.
Nara, once the capital of Japan, lies just east of Osaka on the main island of Honshu.
Abe resigned in 2020 because he said a chronic health condition had resurfaced. Abe has suffered from ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager and said the disease was controlled with treatment.
He told reporters at the time that it was « heartbreaking » to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his inability to solve the problem of the Japanese kidnapped years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of the constitution of Japan renouncing the war.
That last goal was a big reason why he was such a controversial figure.
His ultra-nationalism angered the Koreas and China, and his efforts to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the pacifist US-drafted constitution due to weak public support.
Abe’s supporters said his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe has also made enemies by forcing his defense targets and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.
Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric was often aimed at making Japan a « normal » and « beautiful » nation with a stronger military and a bigger role in international affairs.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US officials expressed shock and concern over the shooting.
Our thoughts, our prayers are with him, with his family, with the people of Japan,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a Group of 20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
« Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the United States. The American government and the American people pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the Japanese people, » said United States Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel. wrote on Twitter.
Former President Donald Trump said it was « absolutely devastating news » that Abe had been shot. He said on his social media app that Abe « was a true friend of mine and more importantly America. This is a huge blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him. We are all praying for Shinzo and his beautiful family!