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Shinzo Abe, Former Japanese Prime Minister, Shot and Killed at 67 During Campaign Speech

A male suspect was arrested on the scene

Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Prime Minister in Japanese history, was shot and killed Friday while delivering a campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s elections in the country. He was 67.

Abe, a conservative who stepped down in 2020 due to health issues, was shot twice from behind minutes after he started a speech in the Japanese city of Nara. He was airlifted to a hospital and later pronounced dead despite emergency treatment for two neck wounds and extensive heart damage, hospital officials told the Associated Press.

Police at the scene arrested a single male suspect they identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old from Nara who had served for three years in the country’s Maritime National Defense Force. While final details are still forthcoming, it appears Yamagami wielded a home-made gun of some sort.

Abe held the office in 2006 and 2007 and then from 2012-2020 before retiring due to serious health problems. He remains a highly respected figure in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and was in Nara prefecture giving a campaign speech on behalf of another party member, when he was shot around 11 a.m. Friday, local time, or Thursday, 7 p.m. Pacific.

Video footage — which we will not show here — taken during the attack shows Abe speaking, when a loud boom can be heard along with a large puff of smoke from behind him. A second boom can be heard immediately after. While the actual impact of the shots is not seen in the footage that has been posted online so far, Abe appears to collapse at this point. Photos taken at the scene suggest he was bleeding profusely.

Abe was airlifted to a nearby hospital after the attack at which time he showed no vital signs and was said to have experienced heart failure — a term frequently used in Japan before someone’s death is officially determined by a coroner. 

Following the shooting, U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, tweeted, “We are all saddened and shocked by the shooting of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the U.S. The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, & people of Japan.”

Ex-President Donald Trump called Abe “a true friend of mine, and much more importantly, America,” in a statement posted to his social media network, Truth.

“Abe-san was a remarkable leader of Japan and an unshakeable ally of the U.S.,” former Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter.

Abe’s campaign appearance happened two days before the country’s next election, scheduled for Sunday.

Abe’s tenure as prime minister was defined by an ultimately unsuccessful attempted to change the country’s pacifist constitution, imposed by the United States at the end of World War II. He had hoped to established a stronger military, and make Japan a bigger player in international relations.

He stepped down as Prime Minister in 2020, citing an inability to perform his duties while battling ulcerative colitis, a painful inflammation of the colon and rectum that has no known specific cause.