Japan ex PM Abe
(Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe)

Japanese ex-PM Abe dies after campaign speech shooting

Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is confirmed to have died after being shot during a campaign speech on Friday in the city of Nara, ahead of Sunday’s election for Japan’s upper house, public broadcaster NHK has reported.

NHK aired footage showing Abe, 67, collapsing on the street, with several security guards running toward him. In videos posted to social media at least two apparent gunshots can be heard as a man resembling Abe speaks, and a white plume of smoke is seen behind the former prime minister. Abe was rushed to hospital, but local media reported fire officials saying at the time that he was not showing any vital signs.

Police say they have arrested a 41-year-old man for attempted murder. Defense Ministry sources say he worked for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years up to 2005. NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him.

The attack has shocked a country that has suffered little political violence for decades and has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world.

Speaking to journalists, Prime minister Fumio Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Abe, called the shooting a “heinous act”. He also said he ordered ministers campaigning outside of Tokyo to return to the capital immediately, and that he will convene a Cabinet meeting later Friday.

Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history, until he resigned in 2020,  is known for his hawkish policies and “Abenomics” — drastic monetary easing and fiscal spending in hopes of rejuvenating the domestic economy.

On Japanese social media, the hashtag “We want democracy, not violence” was trending, with many social media users expressing their horror and disgust towards the incident.

The yen rose and Japan’s Nikkei index fell on news of the shooting, partially driven by a knee-jerk flight to safety.