Shinzo Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, collapsed and showed no signs of life after he was shot at while addressing a crowd in Nara prefecture on Friday, state media said in a report, adding that the police have arrested a suspect.
According to state broadcaster NHK, the incident took place at around 11. 30 a.m. (local time) near the Yamatosaidaiji Station in Nara city while the 67-year-old former leader was making a speech for a Liberal Democratic Party candidate’s election campaign.
The local fire department says that Abe is in cardiopulmonary arrest and is scheduled to be transferred by medevac to Nara Medical University Hospital in Kashihara City in the prefecture.
According to the BBC, the term cardiopulmonary arrest is often used before a death is officially confirmed in Japan. The NHK report further said that a gunshot was heard on site and Abe was seen bleeding. Meanwhile, the police have said that Abe appeared to have been shot from behind with a shotgun, the state broadcaster reported.
The male suspect, who appears to be in his 40s, has been arrested for allegedly attempting homicide and the police are interrogating him. The police have said they seized a gun at the site which the man was apparently holding. Incidents of gun violence are rare in Japan, where handguns are banned.
“Former prime minister Abe was shot at around 11:30 am in Nara. One man, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody. The condition of former prime minister Abe is currently unknown,” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
Abe had stepped down as Prime Minister in 2020 citing health reasons. He later revealed that he had suffered a relapse of ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disease, the BBC reported. He was succeeded by his close party ally Yoshihide Suga, who was later replaced by Fumio Kishida.
Abe was a conservative leader who tried to loosen the limits of a post-World War Two pacifist constitution imposed by US upon Japan, strengthen Japan’s military and restore traditional values. He boosted defence spending and reached out to other Asian countries to counter China. He pushed laws that would allow Japan to exercise the right of “collective self-defence”, or militarily aiding an ally under attack. As a leader, he was a good friend of Bharat.
(With IANS inputs)