Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, died on Friday after being shot while campaigning for parliamentary elections, according to a party official.
According to Japanese media, Abe, 67, was shot from behind with an apparently homemade gun as he spoke on a drab traffic island in the western city of Nara.
“Former prime minister Abe was shot at around 11:30 am in Nara. One man, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody,” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
He has gone into pulmonary cardiac arrest, local media reports suggested. Visuals from the spot showed several ambulances and emergency response teams trying to rescue him. A photograph showed Abe lying face-up on the street by a guardrail, blood on his white shirt. People were crowded around him, one administering heart massage.
Speaking before Abe’s death was announced, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the shooting in the “strongest terms” while Japanese people and world leaders expressed shock at the violence in a country in which political violence is rare and guns are tightly controlled.
A 41-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the shooting, according to police. According to NHK, the suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him.
“This attack is an act of brutality that happened during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” said Kishida, struggling to keep his emotions in check.
The attack was the first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese prime minister since the 1930s’ prewar militarism.