8 Jul 2022

Japan ex-prime minister Abe dies after being shot

9:51 pm on 8 July 2022

Japanese former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has died, after being shot while campaigning for a national election.

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A 41-year-old attacked former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in open Stravue. Abe's condition is critical. Prime Minister Shinzo ABE (Japan) Joint press briefing by the Japanese Prime Minister and the Federal Chancellor in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on April 30, 2014 ?_? (Photo by Annegret Hilse / SVEN SIMON / SVEN SIMON / dpa Picture-Alliance via AFP)

Photo: AFP

His death was reported by the Japanese state broadcaster NHK.

The shooting has shocked a country in which political violence is rare and guns are tightly controlled.

NHK said earlier Abe, who was 67, appeared to be in a state of cardiac arrest when airlifted to hospital, after having initially been conscious and responsive.

Police say a man suspected of carrying out the shooting in the western city of Nara has been arrested.

Speaking to media after the incident, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he was praying that Abe would survive the ordeal.

Kisha said he condemned the shooting "in the strongest of terms" and could not accept that it took place during an election, "the foundation of democracy".

He said now was not the time to talk about how the shooting would affect policy implementation but he was asking all cabinet members to return to Tokyo.

The government would consider how to respond after first grasping the situation, he said.

"I want to believe there was sufficient security, but determining that will be part of investigations."

Public broadcaster NHK says he appeared to have been shot from behind by a man with a shotgun.

"Former prime minister Abe was shot at around 11:30 local time (02:30 GMT) in Nara. One man, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody. The condition of former prime minister Abe is currently unknown," chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

"Whatever the reason, such a barbaric act can never be tolerated, and we strongly condemn it."

Shots were heard and a white puff of smoke was seen as Abe made a stump speech for a Sunday upper house election outside a train station in the western city, NHK said.

A man suspected of shooting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Yamato Saidaiji Station in Nara Prefecture on July 8, 2022 is wrestled to the ground.  67-year-old Abe has reportedly been shot in the chest during a stumping tour in Nara in the morning on July 8.

A man suspected of shooting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is wrestled to the ground. Photo: AFP

An NHK reporter on the scene said they could hear two consecutive bangs during Abe's speech.

TBS Television reported that Abe had been shot on the left side of his chest and apparently also in the neck.

Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shooting had been arrested.

Fuji TV reported the suspect was a former maritime self defence force member.

The suspect told police he was unhappy with Abe and intended to kill him, NHK reports.

A handmade gun was used, NHK said.

In a statement, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was "deeply shocked" to hear the news.

"He was one of the first leaders I met when I became PM. He was deeply committed to his role but also generous and kind. My thoughts are with his wife and the people of Japan. Events like this shake us all to the core."

Tributes from other world leaders

Tributes to Shinzo Abe from world leaders have started pouring in after the former Japanese prime minister's death was confirmed.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not in picture) on the sidelines of the G7 summit at Elmau Castle, southern Germany, on June 27, 2022. - The Group of Seven leading economic powers are meeting in Germany for their annual gathering from June 26 to 28, 2022. (Photo by Markus Schreiber / POOL / AFP)

Narendra Modi Photo: AFP

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe".

Modi described Abe as a "towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator".

"He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place," Modi added.

Former prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott, who worked closely with Abe, described him as Japan's "most significant post-war leader".

"Under Abe, Japan assumed its rightful place as the leading democracy of the western Pacific," he tweeted.

Abbott added: "This is a dreadful loss for Japan, for Australia and for a world where democracies stand strong and together."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain stood with Japan at this dark time following the "incredibly sad news".

"His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people.

"The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time."

Abe served two terms as prime minister to become Japan's longest-serving premier before stepping down in 2020 citing ill health.

But he has remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic party, controlling one of its major factions.

An aerial photo shows the site that former prime minister Shinzo Abe been shot in Nara City, Nara Prefecture on July 8, 2022.

An aerial photo shows the site of the shooting of former prime minister Shinzo Abe in Nara City. Photo: AFP

His protege, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, faces an upper house election on Sunday in which analysts say he hopes to emerge from Abe's shadow and define his premiership.

Abe has been best known for his signature 'Abenomics' policy featured bold monetary easing and fiscal spending.

He also bolstered defence spending after years of declines and expanded the military's ability to project power abroad.

In a historic shift in 2014, his government reinterpreted the postwar, pacifist constitution to allow troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two.

The following year, legislation ended a ban on exercising the right of collective self-defence, or defending a friendly country under attack.

Abe, however, did not achieve his long-held goal of revising the US-drafted constitution by writing the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan's military in known, into the pacifist Article 9.

He was instrumental in winning the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo, cherishing a wish to preside over the Games, which were postponed by a year to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Abe first took office in 2006 as Japan's youngest prime minister since World War Two. After a year plagued by political scandals, voter outrage at lost pension records, and an election drubbing for his ruling party, Abe quit citing ill health.

He became prime minister again in 2012.

Abe hails from a wealthy political family that included a foreign minister father and a great-uncle who served as premier.

- Reuters