Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 67, died in the hospital after being shot on Friday morning at a campaign rally in the city of Nara, near Kyoto. He was rushed into emergency care after collapsing to the ground and going into cardiopulmonary arrest, according to Kyodo news agency.
Local authorities said that Abe had sustained gunshot wounds to his neck and chest. The suspected attacker has been arrested, according to the Japanese state broadcaster NHK. The man has been identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a resident of Nara who was described as unemployed. According to NHK, the attacker shot Abe twice in the back with what appeared to be a homemade weapon. Police said he has admitted to the assassination.
“Abe was bleeding profusely and we were unable to save his life,” said a doctor at the hospital. The bullet was “deep enough to reach his heart,” said doctors at Nara Medical University in a news conference.
On Friday morning, the former leader was giving a campaign speech on behalf of Kei Sato, a member of the Upper House who is running for re-election. Shortly after he began talking, at around 11.30 am local time, attendees heard the sound of what seemed to be at least two shots and saw Abe collapse.
Abe was the longest-serving prime minister of Japan, heading two governments from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2020, before stepping down for health reasons. Despite formally retiring, he still held immense influence in Japanese politics, dominated by his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which led the country for most of the postwar era. After leaving the government, he was replaced by his spokesman and cabinet secretary Yoshihide Sugawara, who in turn resigned last year and was replaced by the current prime minister, Fumio Kishida.
Kishida on Friday described Abe’s assassination as “an act of cowardly barbarism.”
During his eight years in office, Abe tried to boost Japan’s economy, stagnant since the 1990s, with a method informally dubbed “Abenomics” and based on fiscal spending and loose monetary policy.
Considered a “hawk” in foreign policy, the former prime minister boosted defense spending and in 2014 his government approved a reinterpretation of the postwar pacifist Constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight outside national territory for the first time since the end of World War II.
He was one of the great promoters of Tokyo’s candidacy for the 2020 Olympic Games. His dream of presiding over the celebrations was frustrated by the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, which forced the event to be postponed for a year.