Breaking: Ex-Japanese PM, Abe, shot, feared dead

Shinzo Abe

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is feared dead today after being shot in the chest while giving a campaign speech in the south of the country.

Abe, 67, who is Japan’s longest-serving PM having held office twice from 2006 to 2007 and 2012 to 2020, was shot around 11.30am local time in the city of Nara – near Osaka – while speaking outside the train station.

Firefighters who rushed to the scene described him as having ‘no vital signs’, while medics said he was ‘in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest’. That phrase is commonly used in Japan when someone has died but doctors have not officially pronounced it.

Suspected shooter Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a military veteran, was tackled by security and arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder – with police also confiscating what appeared to be a homemade firearm.

Witnesses reported hearing two shots while Abe was making a campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s election for the parliament’s upper house. He then collapsed holding his chest, with his shirt smeared with blood.

Fumio Kishida, the current prime minister of Japan, called the shooting ‘absolutely unforgivable’ and said he is ‘praying’ that Abe survives.

It was a stunning development in a country with famously low levels of violent crime and tough gun laws, involving Japan’s best-known politician.

Former prime minister Abe was shot at around 11:30 am,’ in the country’s western region of Nara, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

‘One man, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody. The condition of former prime minister Abe is currently unknown.’

‘Whatever the reason, such a barbaric act can never be tolerated, and we strongly condemn it,’ Matsuno added.

The suspected gunman, who was tackled at the scene and arrested, is a former soldier who was in the Japanese self-defense forces and appears to have built the improvised weapon used in the shooting, Radio 4 reported. 

Several Ministry of Defense officials confirmed that Yamagami had been working for the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years until around 2005. 

 It was reported that Abe had his security team around him during the speech on Friday, but the attacker was able to pull this gun out and shoot him at close range ‘without being checked.’

The former leader had been delivering a stump speech at an event ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections when the apparent sound of gunshots was heard, NHK and the Kyodo news agency said.