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Ex-Japanese leader Shinzo Abe reportedly shot dead, media say: NPR

People watch TV news reporting that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead, in Tokyo, Friday, July 8, 2022.

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People watch TV news reporting that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead, in Tokyo, Friday, July 8, 2022.

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TOKYO — Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an arch-conservative and one of his country’s most controversial figures, was shot and seriously injured during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan. He was airlifted to hospital, but authorities said he was not breathing and his heart stopped.

Police arrested the suspected shooter at the scene of an attack that shocked many in Japan, which is one of the safest countries in the world and has some of the strictest gun control laws. fire.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Abe was in “serious condition” and hoped he would survive. Kishida and his ministers hastily returned to Tokyo after campaign events across the country following the shooting, which he called “despicable and barbaric”.

“I pray from the bottom of my heart for the survival of former Prime Minister Abe,” Kishida told reporters in his office.

Abe, who is 67 and was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020, was in cardio and pulmonary arrest as he was airlifted to hospital, local fire chief Makoto Morimoto said. .

Public broadcaster NHK aired dramatic footage of Abe giving a speech outside a train station in the western city of Nara. He is standing, dressed in a navy blue suit, raising his fist, when a shot is heard. Footage then shows Abe collapsed in the street, with security guards running towards him. He clutches his chest, his shirt stained with blood.

The next moment, security guards jump on a man in a gray shirt lying face down on the sidewalk. A double-barreled device that appeared to be a homemade firearm is seen on the ground.

Nara Prefectural Police have confirmed the arrest of 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami on suspicion of attempted murder. NHK reported that the suspect served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years in the 2000s.

Other footage from the scene showed campaign officials surrounding Abe. The former leader is still influential within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and leads its largest faction, Seiwakai. Elections for Japan’s upper house, the least powerful house in its parliament, are on Sunday.

“I use the harshest words to condemn (the act),” Kishida said as he struggled to control his emotions. He said the government planned to review the security situation, but added that Abe had the highest protection.

An employee hands out extra editions of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reporting that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead Friday, July 8, 2022, in Tokyo.

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An employee hands out extra editions of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reporting that former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead Friday, July 8, 2022, in Tokyo.

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Opposition leaders condemned the attack as a challenge to Japanese democracy and prayed for Abe’s recovery. In Tokyo, people stopped on the streets to buy extra editions of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper or watch TV coverage of the shooting.

When he resigned as prime minister, Abe said he was suffering from a recurrence of ulcerative colitis he had since his teenage years.

He told reporters at the time that it was “heartbreaking” to leave many of his goals unfinished. He spoke of his inability to solve the problem of the Japanese kidnapped years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of the constitution of Japan renouncing the war.

That last goal was a big reason why he was such a controversial figure.

His ultra-nationalism annoyed the Koreas and China, and his drive to create what he saw as a more normal defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the pacifist US-drafted constitution due to weak public support.

Loyalists said his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe has made enemies by forcing his defense targets and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.

Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric has often focused on transforming Japan into a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and a bigger role in international affairs.

Many foreign officials expressed shock at the shooting.

In response to a question, Chinese Foreign Ministry Zhao Lijian said China was “shocked” by the “sudden incident”. “We are following developments and hope former Prime Minister Abe will be out of harm’s way and recover quickly,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

“Our thoughts, our prayers are with him, with his family, with the people of Japan,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a meeting of the Group of 20 Foreign Ministers in Bali, Indonesia.

Abe said he was proud to work as the head of a stronger Japan-US security alliance and to lead the first visit of a sitting US president to the city of Hiroshima. bombarded by atomic bombs. He also helped Tokyo win the right to host the 2020 Olympics by promising that a disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was “under control” when it was not.

Abe became Japan’s youngest prime minister in 2006, aged 52, but his first overly nationalistic stint ended abruptly a year later, also because of his health.

The end of Abe’s scandal-laden first term as prime minister marked the start of six years of annual leadership changes, remembered as an era of “revolving door” politics that lacked stability and long-term policies.

Upon his return to power in 2012, Abe pledged to revitalize the nation and lift its economy out of its deflationary slump with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms.

He won six national elections and built a solid grip on power, strengthening Japan’s defense role and capability and its security alliance with the United States. He also intensified patriotic education in schools and raised Japan’s international profile.