Former Japan PM Abe dies after being shot

Former Japan PM Abe dies after being shot

The former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has died after being shot while making a campaign speech, plunging the country into grief as it comes to terms with the loss of its longest-serving leader.

The 67-year-old, who resigned in 2020, was flown to hospital by helicopter after the attack in the western city of Nara, and pronounced dead about five and a half hours later.

The first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese premier since the days of prewar militarism in the 1930s sent shockwaves through Japan, where political violence is rare and guns are tightly controlled.

“This attack is an act of brutality that happened during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” said the current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, Abe’s protege, struggling to keep his emotions in check.

Footage broadcast by Japanese media showed Abe’s speech interrupted by two loud bangs and smoke, with Abe stumbling to the ground after the second shot.

The hospital that tried to save him said he died at 5.03pm (8.03am GMT). He bled to death from deep wounds to the heart and the right side of his neck, despite receiving more than 100 units of blood in transfusions over four hours, Hidetada Fukushima, the professor in charge of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University hospital, told a televised news conference.

Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shooting had been arrested. The public broadcaster NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him.

The suspect told police he had made multiple handmade explosives and guns in the past, NHK reported. Police discovered several possible explosive devices during a search of his home, according to local media. NHK reported that bomb disposal technicians were preparing to carry out a controlled explosion on the premises.

Police said the weapon thought to have been used in the attack was homemade. A photograph showed two cylindrical metal parts that appeared to have been heavily bound with black tape lying on the road near the scene.

Abe, who had been in Nara to make a campaign speech ahead of this Sunday’s upper house elections, was a conservative politician known for his “Abenomics” policy to lift the world’s third-biggest economy out of deflation and for supporting a more prominent role for Japan’s military to counter growing threats from North Korea and a more assertive China.

Having quit abruptly as premier in 2007 after one year in the post, Abe swept back for a rare second stint in 2012, pledging to revive a stagnant economy, loosen the limits of a post-second world war pacifist constitution and restore conservative values.

He was instrumental in winning the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo, cherishing a wish to preside over the Games and even appeared as the Nintendo video game character Mario during the Olympic handover at Rio 2016.

While in office, Abe failed to realise his main political ambition – to revise Japan’s “pacifist” constitution, which prohibits the country from using force to resolve international disputes. In recent weeks, he had voiced support for significant rises in Japan’s defence budget, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as proof that Japan should stay vigilant in case of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Abe became Japan’s longest-serving premier in November 2019, but by the summer of 2020 public support had been eroded by his handling of the Covid-19 outbreak as well as a series of scandals, including the arrest of his former justice minister. Citing the return of a chronic bowel complaint that had contributed to the premature end to his first term in office, Abe resigned without presiding over the Games, which was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.-The Guardian