Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shot dead while delivering a speech in Japan

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lies on the ground after an apparent shooting during an election campaign in Nara, Japan
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lies on the ground after an apparent shooting during an election campaign for the Upper House election on July 10, 2022, in Nara, western Japan, July 8, 2022 .

Kyodo via Reuters


Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot while delivering a campaign speech in western Japan on Friday and airlifted to a hospital. Local fire chief Makoto Morimoto said Abe was in cardiopulmonary arrest, or CPA, meaning he was not breathing and his heart stopped, during the airlift.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that police arrested a suspect at the scene of the attack.

“A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, regardless of the reasons, and we strongly condemn it,” Matsuno said.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Abe, returned to Tokyo by helicopter from his own campaign destination in Yamagata, northern Japan. He told reporters Abe was “in serious condition.”

“As far as I have heard, whatever can be done is being done to bring him back to life. I pray from the bottom of my heart that his life will be saved,” Kishida said. “I am not aware of the motives and context of this attack, but this attack is an act of brutality that occurred during elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable.”

Japanese public broadcaster NHK aired video of Abe collapsed in the street with several security guards running towards him. He was reportedly shot minutes after he began speaking outside a train station in western Nara. In videos posted to social media, at least two apparent gunshots can be heard as a man resembling Abe speaks, and a plume of white smoke is visible behind the former prime minister.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe unconscious after shooting
Police officers at the scene where former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead during a political event in Nara, Japan on July 8, 2022.

Kosuke Okahara/Bloomberg/Getty


According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, Abe was shot in the neck and chest.

NHK, citing multiple military sources, said the suspect had been employed in Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years, until 2005. The network described the weapon used in the attack as homemade. Police say the suspect told them he was unhappy with Abe and wanted to kill him.

Other videos posted online show campaign officials surrounding Abe in an apparent attempt to deal with the popular former leader, who is still influential in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and leads its largest faction, Seiwakai. Elections for Japan’s upper house, the least powerful house in its parliament, are on Sunday.

The attack was a shock in a country that is one of the safest in the world and has some of the strictest gun control laws everywhere.


Japan has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world and the lowest rates of gun violence

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The term heart failure means that the heart cannot sufficiently pump blood and supply the necessary oxygen to the rest of the body. In Japan, authorities sometimes use this term to describe situations where the victims are no longer alive but before an official declaration of death has been made.

“We are all saddened and shocked by the assassination of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo,” US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel said on Twitter. “Abe-san was an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the United States. The American government and the American people pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the Japanese people.”

During a visit to Indonesia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply saddened by the shooting”.

“We do not know his condition. Our thoughts, our prayers are with him, his family and the Japanese people. Very sad moment,” said the head of American diplomacy.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe announces his resignation
FILE: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s official residence on August 28, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.

FRANCK ROBICHON/POOL / Getty Images


Abe, 67, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He resigned in September 2020 due to health issues. Abe said at the time he was suffering from a recurrence of ulcerative colitis which ended his first term in 2007. He told reporters it was “heartbreaking” to leave many of his goals unfinished and spoke of his inability to resolve the issue of the Japanese kidnapped years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of Japan’s constitution renouncing the war.

That last goal was a big reason why he was such a controversial figure.

His ultra-nationalism annoyed the Koreas and China, and his efforts to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the pacifist US-drafted constitution due to weak public support.

Abe’s supporters said his legacy was a stronger U.S.-Japan relationship meant to bolster Japan’s defense capability. But Abe has also made enemies by forcing his defense targets and other contentious issues through parliament, despite strong public opposition.

Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric has often focused on transforming Japan into a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and a bigger role in international affairs.

Lillian L. Pena