Shinzo Abe had been receiving a blood transfusion in hospital, but ultimately was not able to fight the extent of the injuries
Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, the nation’s longest-serving leader, has died after he was shot during a political campaign event in an attack condemned as “absolutely unforgivable”.
It was the first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese prime minister since the days of prewar militarism in the 1930s.
Professor of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University Hospital, Hidetada Fukushima, confirmed to local reporters at a press conference that Mr Abe had died.
Mr Fukushima said he had no vital signs when he arrived at the hospital about an hour after the shooting occurred.
Mr Abe did receive blood transfusions but they were able to stop the bleeding, he said.
The attack came before noon in the country’s western region of Nara, where Mr Abe, 67, had been delivering an election campaign speech with security present, but spectators able to approach him easily. At about 11.30am (12.30pm AEST), gunfire was heard.
The suspected shooter, a male, was taken into custody after being tackled to the ground by security.
Police said the suspect is a resident of Nara.
Media said he had served in Japan’s military for three years until 2005.
The assassination of the country’s best-known politician comes despite Japan’s strict gun laws and with campaigning underway ahead of upper house elections on Sunday.
Media crews gather in an area near Kintetsu Railway’s Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot. Source: AAP / KyodoEarlier Prime Minister Fumio Kishida abandoned the campaign trail and flew to Tokyo by helicopter where he addressed reporters in a voice that wavered with emotion.
He condemned the shooting as “a barbaric act during election campaigning, which is the foundation of democracy.”
“It is absolutely unforgivable. I condemn this act in the strongest terms.”
A man, believed to be the shooting suspect, is held by police officers at Yamato Saidaiji Station in Nara Prefecture on8 July, 2022. Source: AAP, AP / Kazuhiko Hirano
‘A large bang’: Witnesses recount chaos
Footage broadcast by NHK showed Mr Abe standing on a stage when a man dressed in a grey shirt and brown trousers begins approaching from behind, before drawing something from a bag and firing.
At least two shots appear to be fired, each producing a cloud of smoke.
“He was giving a speech and a man came from behind,” a young woman at the scene told NHK.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was taken to hospital after being reportedly shot at a campaign event. Source: AAP / Kazuhiko Hirano/AP”The first shot sounded like a toy bazooka. He didn’t fall and there was a large bang. The second shot was more visible, you could see the spark and smoke,” she added.
“After the second shot, people surrounded him and gave him cardiac massage.”
Mr Abe was bleeding from the neck, witnesses said and photographs showed. He was reportedly initially conscious but subsequently lost consciousness, NHK reported.
Mr Abe had been delivering a stump speech at an event ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections. Credit: Kazuhiko Hirano/AP/AAPSeveral media outlets reported that he appeared to have been shot from behind.
Mr Abe is the country’s longest continuously serving prime minister, having served from 2012 to 2020, before stepping down, citing ill health.
He has remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling one of its major factions.
Mr Kishida, Abe’s protege, had been hoping to use the election to emerge from Abe’s shadow and define his premiership, analysts have said.
Rare event amid low levels of violent crime
It was a stunning development in a country with famously low levels of violent crime, involving perhaps Japan’s best-known politician.
Japan has some of the world’s toughest gun-control laws, and annual deaths from firearms in the country of 125 million people are regularly in single figures.
Getting a gun licence is a long and complicated process even for Japanese citizens, who must first get a recommendation from a shooting association and then undergo strict police checks.
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