Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe has died while hospitalized after he was shot at a political campaign event in the city of Nara on Friday.
Abe was shot twice, with the second shot hitting him in the back, causing him to fall to the ground. His attacker has since been arrested.
In an emotional press conference earlier, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that Abe was in a “very grave condition.”
“Currently doctors are doing everything they can,” said Kishida who appeared to be holding back tears, adding that he was “praying from his heart” that Abe would survive.
He also condemned the attack, saying: “It is barbaric and malicious and it cannot be tolerated.”
Earlier, ex-Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe said in a tweet that the 67-year-old Abe was in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest.
The term is often used before death is officially confirmed in Japan.
Second video shows the attempted assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
NOTE: Video not graphic, but viewer discretion is advised pic.twitter.com/BZNGHP78ds
— BNO News (@BNONews) July 8, 2022
Videos circulating on social media appear to show paramedics huddled around the former PM in the middle of a street.
Abe was giving a stump speech for a candidate in Nara when the attack happened, and eye-witnesses say they saw a man with what they described as a large gun fire from behind.
The gunman is 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, a resident of Nara. He is reported to be a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force, the country’s navy, but the defence ministry has not officially confirmed this.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister
Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, held office in 2006 for a year and then again from 2012 to 2020 before stepping down, citing health reasons. He later revealed that he had suffered a relapse of ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disease.
He was succeeded by his close party ally Yoshihide Suga, who was later replaced by Fumio Kishida.
Incidents of gun violence are rare in Japan, where handguns are banned and incidents of political violence are almost unheard of.
Tributes pouring in from world leaders
US President Joe Biden has said he is “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened”. Biden, like President Barack Obama, worked closely with the former Japanese prime minister when he was US vice-president.
He said: “He was a champion of the alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people.
“The longest serving Japanese prime minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure.
“Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service.
“Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy,” Biden said.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that “Japan has lost a great prime minister”, adding that Abe “dedicated his life to his country and worked for stability in the world”.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Abe was “one of Australia’s closest friends on the world stage” and “under his leadership Japan emerged as one of Australia’s most like-minded partners in Asia – a legacy that endures today”.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his shock about Abe’s death saying in a statement:
“He was a great politician, the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Japan, and this tragic event has shocked us all.”
The Foreign Ministry in Athens expressed also its “profound sadness and shock.”
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