Japan ex-leader Shinzo Abe assassinated while giving speech

NARA, Japan (AP) — Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a divisive arch-conservative and one of his nation’s most powerful and influential figures, has died after being shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan, according to NHK public television.

Abe, 67, was shot from behind minutes after he started his speech in Nara. He was airlifted to a hospital for emergency treatment but was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was pronounced dead later at the hospital, NHK said.

<p>FILE - Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media as he arrives at the prime minister's office for a cabinet meeting in Tokyo on Sept. 16, 2020. </p>

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File

FILE - Japan's outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media as he arrives at the prime minister's office for a cabinet meeting in Tokyo on Sept. 16, 2020. 

Police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of an attack that shocked many in Japan, which is one of the world’s safest nations and has some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cabinet ministers hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events around the country after the shooting, which he called “dastardly and barbaric.”

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020.

NHK aired a dramatic video 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 two gunshots are heard. The video then shows Abe collapsed on the street, with security guards running toward him. He holds his chest, his shirt smeared with blood.

<p>In this image from a video, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, is attended on the ground in Nara, western Japan Friday, July 8, 2022. Abe was shot and critically wounded during a campaign speech Friday. He was airlifted to a hospital but officials said he was not breathing and his heart had stopped. </p>

Kyodo News via AP

In this image from a video, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, is attended on the ground in Nara, western Japan Friday, July 8, 2022. Abe was shot and critically wounded during a campaign speech Friday. He was airlifted to a hospital but officials said he was not breathing and his heart had stopped. 

In the next moment, security guards leap on top of a man in gray shirt who lies face down on the pavement. A double-barreled device that appeared to be a handmade gun is seen on the ground.

Nara prefectural police confirmed the arrest of Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, on suspicion of attempted murder. NHK reported that the suspect served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years in the 2000s. Full story here: