Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died on Friday after being shot while delivering a campaign speech, officials said. He was 67 years old.
The big picture: Abe, who was most recently in office from December 2012 to September 2020, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He resigned in 2020 for health reasons but remained influential in politics.
What happened: Abe was shot while delivering a campaign speech in the city of Nara ahead of Sunday’s elections for the upper house of parliament, NHK reported.
- He was rushed to hospital but showed no vital signs, according to NHK. He suffered two gunshot wounds and died shortly after 5 p.m. local time, health officials said at a news conference.
- Police have arrested the suspected shooter, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, according to NHK. The former Japanese Navy member was reportedly unhappy with Abe and wanted to kill him as a result, but not because of political differences.
- The weapon found at the scene was apparently hand-made. Police said on Saturday the bullet penetrated Abe’s left arm and damaged the arteries below his collar bones, causing fatal bleeding, AP reports.
- Shootings are extremely rare in Japan – a country with some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the world. There were 10 shootings and one gun-related death in Japan last year, notes from the washington post.
- Abe’s widow, Akie Abe, will travel with his body to Tokyo, where his family is located, his office told CNN. Funeral arrangements will be made later.
- Abe’s body was brought home to Tokyo on Saturday, per AP.
What they say : “He was working for peace and stability in Japan and the world,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after Abe’s death was confirmed.
- “He was a dear friend who loved this country,” Kishida added. “To lose such a character in this way is absolutely devastating.”
- Earlier on Friday, Kishda called the attack on Abe “barbaric and malicious and cannot be tolerated”.
- “This is not a forgivable act,” Kishida said, adding that authorities “will take appropriate measures to handle the situation.”
World leaders expressed shock and outrage at the assassination.
- “It’s shocking. It’s deeply disturbing…It’s also such a strong personal loss for so many people,” said US Secretary of State Tony Blinken. told reporters in Indonesia where he is attending a meeting of G20 foreign ministers.
- “In the United States, Prime Minister Abe was an amazing partner. And someone who was clearly a great leader for Japan,” Blinken added.
- “Mr Abe was one of the first world leaders I met when I became Prime Minister. He was always focused, thoughtful and generous,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
- “This act of violence against Japan’s longest-serving prime minister is unfathomable, and we stand with Japan in condemning what happened today.”
- President Biden said in a statement that he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened” by Abe’s death. “It is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew it.”
Background: Abe rose to prominence in national politics in the early 2000s, according to The New York Times.
- He first became prime minister in 2006, but abruptly resigned a year later after several political scandals.
- Abe returned for a second term as prime minister in 2012, promising to revive the economy and change the country’s dovish constitution – a goal he failed to achieve due to weak public support.
- The end of his term saw close ties to the United States, particularly former President Trump.
- By the time he announced he was stepping down in 2020, citing ongoing health issues related to ulcerative colitis, his popularity had declined due to his handling of the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and a series political scandals, according to the Times.
- His more than seven years in power have given him a rare firm hand at the top of Japanese politics. The country was known for its frequent prime minister turnover before he took office in 2012.
Go further: World leaders are shocked by the assassination of Japan’s Shinzo Abe
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new details.