Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dies after being shot

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Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister, died at the age of 67 after being shot while giving a speech in the western city of Nara.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dies after being shot - Freedom News Today

After the attack, Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister until his resignation in 2020, was flown to hospital by helicopter. It was the first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese prime minister since the 1930s’ prewar militarism.

“This attack is an act of brutality that occurred during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” said Abe’s protege, current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, struggling to keep his emotions in check. Other Japanese politicians expressed shock at the violence in a country where political violence is uncommon and firearms are strictly regulated.

Japanese media broadcast footage and accounts of Abe’s speech being interrupted by two loud bangs – possibly from a shotgun – and smoke, with Abe stumbling to the ground after the second shot.

He died at 5.03pm (0803 GMT), about five and a half hours after he was shot, according to the hospital that tried to save him. According to a doctor, Abe bled to death from two deep wounds, one on the right side of his neck. When he was brought in, he had no vital signs.

Members of Abe’s security detail wrestled a man to the ground metres behind the former prime minister moments after the shooting. The suspect was dressed in a grey shirt, light brown slacks, and grey sneakers. A surgical mask partially obscured his face. He allegedly made no attempt to flee before being apprehended at the scene.

Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old Nara resident, was identified as the suspect by police

Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old Nara resident, was identified as the suspect by police. According to local media reports, police believe the weapon used in the attack was homemade. A photograph showed two cylindrical metal parts heavily bound with black tape lying on the road near the scene.

Abe, who was in Nara for a campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections, was a conservative politician known for his “Abenomics” policy to lift the world’s third-largest economy out of deflation and for advocating for a more prominent role for Japan’s military to counter growing threats from North Korea and a more assertive China.

After resigning abruptly as Prime Minister in 2007 after only one year in office, Abe returned for a rare second term in 2012, promising to revive a stagnant economy, relax the constraints of a post-World War II pacifist constitution, and restore conservative values.

He was instrumental in Tokyo winning the 2020 Olympics, fulfilling a long-held desire to preside over the Games, and even appeared as the Nintendo video game character Mario during the Olympic handover ceremony in Rio in 2016.

During his presidency, Abe failed to realize his main political goal: revising Japan’s “pacifist” constitution, which forbids the country from using force to settle international disputes. In recent weeks, he has advocated for significant increases in Japan’s defense budget, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as evidence that Japan must remain vigilant in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Abe became Japan's longest-serving prime minister in November 2019

Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November 2019, but by the summer of 2020, his handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as a series of scandals, including the arrest of his former justice minister, had eroded public support. Abe resigned without presiding over the Games, citing the return of a chronic bowel complaint that had contributed to the premature end of his first term in office.

Japan has close to “zero-tolerance” for gun ownership, which experts say contributes to the country’s extremely low rate of gun crime. According to the National Police Agency, there were six reported gun deaths in 2014, and the number rarely exceeds ten in a country of 126 million people.

According to Airo Hino, a political science professor at Waseda University, such a shooting is unprecedented in Japan. “This has never happened before,” he said.

Senior Japanese politicians are escorted by armed security guards, but they frequently interact with the public, particularly during political campaigns when they make roadside speeches and shake hands with passersby.

A yakuza gangster shot and killed Nagasaki’s mayor in 2007. A rightwing youth wielding a samurai short sword assassinated the leader of the Japan Socialist Party during a speech in 1960. A few other prominent postwar politicians were targeted but were not hurt.

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