Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — Japan’s longest-serving premier and a figure of enduring influence — died after being shot at a campaign event Friday in an attack that shocked a nation where political violence and guns are rare.
Abe, 67, was shot from about 3 meters (10 feet) away with what appeared to be a homemade firearm in the western city of Nara, as he was giving a campaign speech at an outdoor venue for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party ahead of Sunday’s upper house election. Video and images from the scene showed the former premier collapsing to the ground, with blood on his shirt after two loud blasts rang out.
Abe was flown by helicopter to Nara Medical University Hospital, where he had no vital signs upon arrival, Hidetada Fukushima, the doctor who treated Abe, told a news conference. The former premier suffered two gunshot wounds to his neck and injuries to his chest. He was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m., a little more than five hours after he was shot.
The current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, who served as foreign minister under Abe, denounced the loss of his “good friend” in what he described as an act of “despicable barbarism.”
“He loved this country and always looked one step ahead of the times,” Kishida said. “He was a great politician who left many achievements in terms of developing the future of the country in various fields. To lose him in such a way is a great sadness.”
The premier said the vote for Sunday would go ahead as planned and his government would do its utmost to ensure security, adding elections were the foundation of democracy. The LDP’s ruling bloc had been expected to keep its majority in the upper house even before the shock.
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