Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe dead after shooting, Latest World News - The New Paper

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe dead after shooting

TOKYO - Former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe died on Friday (July 8) after he was shot during a rally speech in Nara prefecture in western Japan.

The death of the former prime minister was confirmed by Liberal Democratic Party officials to domestic media.

Earlier current premier Fumio Kishida said Mr Abe had been in critical condition.

“Everything that can be done is being done to revive him. I am praying from the depths of my heart that his life will be saved," Mr Kishida said, struggling to hold back tears.  

The prime minister condemned the "barbaric" attack, which he said was "unforgiveable" and would not be tolerated. 

He said he would not speculate about the gunman's motives and whether it signalled a trend of societal unhappiness.

A man identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a Nara resident, has been arrested. Public broadcaster NHK cited Yamagami as telling police sources that he was disgruntled with Mr Abe and "wanted to kill him”.

Fuji TV reported that the suspect was a former member of the maritime self-defence force, while NHK said he had served in the force for about three years until 2005.

A gun has been recovered at the scene and the suspect was arrested for attempted murder, NHK reported.

The broadcaster said police in protective gear raided the home of the man after he was arrested.

NHK footage showed several police officers wearing helmets and body armour and carrying protective shields filing into a building identified as the home of the suspect.

Japan votes in an Upper House election on Sunday, where 545 candidates are vying for 125 seats. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) bigwigs have been fanning out across the country to campaign for the party candidates.

Speaking to reporters in his Tokyo office after he flew back from campaigning in the north upon news of Mr Abe's shooting, Mr Kishida said nothing had been decided yet about whether the election would go ahead. 

"I have not thought of any change to the election timeline yet," Mr Kishida said, adding that he had told all ministers to return to Tokyo on Friday. 

"We need to know what is happening now and after getting more details, we will want to discuss what we should do as a government." 

Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi – Mr Abe’s blood brother who was adopted into Mr Abe's maternal family when he was born – condemned the attack in the strongest terms, saying it was an “attack on democracy” and that he prayed for Mr Abe’s recovery.

He added that whatever the suspect's background, the act was inexcusable.

Mr Kishi said he understands that doctors are working very hard to save his brother's life, including through blood transfusions.

NHK reported that Mr Abe’s wife Akie has arrived at Nara Medical University Hospital, where Mr Abe is undergoing treatment.

Earlier, Kyodo news agency and NHK reported that Mr Abe appeared to be in a state of "cardiorespiratory arrest" when taken to hospital, after having initially been conscious and responsive, according to Reuters.

The term is often used in Japan before a feared death can be officially confirmed by a coroner.

Political parties condemn attack 

Both ruling party and opposition politicians were united in condemning the attack as one that is barbaric and an act of terror.

Mr Kenta Izumi, who leads main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), said the shooting of Mr Abe was a deplorable act in a democratic country.

Reiwa Shinsengumi chief Taro Yamamoto said: "I really hope he survives the attack. While our political positions may be polar opposites, ex-PM Abe has been working very hard to create the Japanese society that he envisions."

“Former prime minister Abe was shot at around 11.30am in Nara. One man, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters earlier in the day.

Media reports have said that Mr Abe collapsed in the middle of a rally speech in front of the Yamato-Saidaiji Station of the Kintetsu Line in Nara.

He had begun speaking at 11.29am (10.29am Singapore time) and was shot just one minute later, at around 11.30am outside the station.

Mr Abe was speaking on behalf of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate Kei Sato, 43, a current member of the Upper House running for re-election in Nara.

Screaming crowds 

NHK showed a video of Mr Abe making the speech when two shots rang out, after which the view was briefly obscured and then security officials were seen tackling a man on the ground.

Mr Yoshio Ogita, 74, secretary-general of the Nara chapter of the LDP, was standing next to Mr Abe. He heard two loud sounds and saw a plume of white smoke rising to the sky.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” he said in a phone interview. “I saw him collapse.”

Businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was at the scene, told Reuters: “The first shot, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special police tackled him.”

TBS Television reported that Mr Abe was shot on the left side of his chest and apparently also in the neck.