(Kashihara) Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died in hospital on Friday as a result of a gunshot attack he suffered in the middle of a campaign rally in Nara (West), sparking great emotion in Japan and abroad.
Updated at 6:03 am
“Shinzo Abe was transported [à l’hôpital] at 12:20 p.m. He was in a state of cardiac arrest upon arrival. [Les médecins ont] tried to revive him. Unfortunately, he passed away at 5:03 p.m.,” said Hidetada Fukushima, a professor of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University Hospital in nearby Kashihara.
Mr Abe was hit in the neck by two bullets, the doctor said.
“It is a barbaric act in the middle of an election campaign which is the basis of democracy and it is absolutely unforgivable,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned during a news conference before Mr Abe’s death was confirmed.
Visibly moved, Mr Kishida said he had “prayed” for the survival of Mr Abe, his former political mentor, whose foreign minister he was from 2012 to 2017.
according to dr Fukushima, Mr Abe arrived at the hospital with “cardiovascular arrest” – a term used in Japan to indicate a lack of vital signs and which usually precedes an official death certificate.
The former chief executive officer was delivering a speech near a train station in Nara during a campaign rally ahead of Sunday’s Senate election late in the morning when gunfire was heard, according to the National NHK and Kyodo news agency.
A suspect arrested
A man in his forties was immediately disarmed and arrested. According to multiple local media outlets, the suspect is a 41-year-old Japanese man who had a history with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Japanese Navy.
NHK footage showed officers in riot gear entering a building identified by the TV station as the suspect’s home in Nara on Friday afternoon.
In NHK footage showing the moment of the attack, Mr. Abe is standing on a podium, then a loud bang is heard and smoke billows out. The spectators, surprised by the detonation, bend down and several people attack each other on the ground.
Mr Abe “made a speech and a man came from behind,” a young woman at the scene told NHK.
“The first shot sounded like a toy. He [M. Abe] did not fall and there was a loud bang. The second shot was more visible, you could see the spark and the smoke,” she added.
After the second shot, people surrounded Mr. Abe who had fallen to the ground “and gave him a cardiac massage,” she testified again.
Local PLD officials said they received no threat before the attack and that Mr Abe’s speech had been publicly announced.
“Very very sad”
Former PLD leader Shinzo Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He was in office from 2006-2007, then again from 2012 to 2020. He was forced to resign due to ill health but remained very influential within the PLD, of which he controlled the main parliamentary group.
After the attack, reactions came in from all over the world.
“This is a very, very sad time,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday, adding that the United States is “deeply saddened and deeply concerned.”
President Vladimir Putin lamented an “irreparable loss” in Moscow. In Brussels, European Union leaders denounced the “brutal murder” of a “great democrat,” and key Asian leaders were shocked.
Japan hasn’t seen anything like this “for more than 50 to 60 years,” Corey Wallace, a senior lecturer at Kanagawa University and a specialist in Japanese politics, told AFP.
According to him, the last similar incident in Japan was the 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, leader of the Japanese Socialist Party, who was stabbed by a far-right student.
“But two days before an election [et un homme] so important […] it is deeply saddening and shocking,” he added.
Japan has one of the strictest gun control laws in the world, and the annual death toll from such guns in the country of 125 million people is extremely low.
Obtaining a gun license is a long and complicated process, even for Japanese nationals, who must first obtain a recommendation from a shooting club and then undergo a strict police check.