Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assassinated in the middle of a rally

Ex-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assassinated in the middle of a rally

UPDATE DAY

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died in hospital on Friday, according to local media, a few hours after being shot and wounded in the middle of an election rally, an attack which aroused great emotion in the Japan and overseas. 

“According to a senior official of the PLD, (the Liberal Democratic Party in power in Japan, editor’s note), former Prime Minister Abe died in the hospital” of Kashihara in the department of Nara where he had been transferred after the attack, state broadcaster NHK said. He was 67 years old.

“It's a barbaric act in the middle of the election campaign, which is the basis of democracy, and it's absolutely unforgivable”, denounced Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during his a press conference in the early afternoon, before Mr. Abe's death was confirmed.

Visibly very moved, Mr. Kishida said he “prayed” for the survival of Mr. Abe, his former political mentor, of whom he had been Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2017.

According to the television channel public NHK, Mr. Abe had been taken to hospital in “cardio-respiratory arrest” – a term used in Japan indicating the absence of signs of life, and usually preceding an official death certificate.

The former chief executive was giving a late morning speech near a train station in Nara, western Japan, during a campaign rally ahead of Sunday's senatorial elections, when gunshots fire were heard, national broadcaster NHK and Kyodo news agency reported.

Suspect arrested

A man in his 40s was disarmed and arrested for attempted murder, according to NHK, citing police sources.

According to several local media, the suspect is a 41-year-old Japanese man who once belonged to the Navy Japanese Self-Defense Force, the Japanese Navy.

NHK footage showed Japanese police wearing protective gear entering a building identified by the TV station as the suspect's home on Friday afternoon.

In NHK footage showing the moment of the attack, Mr. Abe is seen standing on a podium, then a loud bang is heard and smoke billows. While the spectators surprised by the detonation bend down, several people tackle another one to the ground.

Mr. Abe “was giving a speech and a man came from behind,” a young woman present at the scene told NHK.

“The first shot sounded like a toy. He didn't fall and there was a big bang. The second shot was more visible, you could see the spark and smoke,” she added. 

“After the second shot, people surrounded him and made a cardiac massage”, she testified again.

Mr Abe collapsed and was bleeding from his neck, a source from the ruling nationalist right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) told the Jiji news agency. 

Local officials from the PLD said they had not received any threats before the attack and that Mr. Abe's speech had been announced publicly.

“Very, very sad” 

Former leader of the PLD, Mr. Abe was the Japanese prime minister to have remained in power the longest. He had been in office in 2006-2007, then again from 2012 to 2020. He had been forced to resign for health reasons, but remained very influential within the PLD, of which he controlled the main faction in Parliament.

Reactions poured in from around the world after the attack.

“It is a very, very sad moment,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday, adding that the United States was “deeply saddened and deeply concerned” by the attack.

“Our thoughts, our prayers are with him, with his family, with the people of Japan,” he added .

“Abe-san was an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the United States. The government and people of the United States pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the people of Japan,” said US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel. 

European Council President Charles Michel said he was “shocked and saddened” by the “cowardly” attack on Mr Abe, whom he described as a “true friend, fierce defender of the multilateral order and democratic values .

Japan hasn't seen anything like it “for more than 50 to 60 years,” Corey Wallace, a lecturer at Kanagawa University and a specialist in science, told AFP. Japanese politics.

According to him, the last similar incident in Japan was the 1960 assassination of Inejiro Asanuma, the leader of the Japanese Socialist Party, who was stabbed by a student close to the extreme right.

“But two days before such an important election (and man) (…) it is deeply sad and shocking,” he added.

Japan has one of the strictest gun control laws in the world, and the annual number of deaths from such weapons in this country of 125 million people is extremely low.

L 'obtaintio n obtaining a gun license is a long and complicated process, even for Japanese citizens, who must first obtain a recommendation from a shooting association and then undergo strict police checks.