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Former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe dies after being shot at campaign event

Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was shot Friday morning while giving a speech in the city of Nara. The killing sent shockwaves through the country, where gun violence is extremely rare.
/ Source: TODAY

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died Friday after he was shot while delivering a speech at a campaign event for a member of his party in the city of Nara. He was 67.

The suspected shooter was apprehended on the scene, although a motive was not immediately known.

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister when he stepped down for health reasons in 2020. During his time in office, he forged relationships with Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden.

“We really, really deeply mourn the loss for his family, the loss for his friends, the loss for the people of Japan, the loss for the world,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday morning at the G-20 Summit in Bali.

Japan's Prime Minister Shizo Abe
Then-Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe arrives at his official residence to attend a cabinet meeting in Tokyo on March 27, 2018.Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP via Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called his predecessor's killing "despicable" and a blow to the country's democracy.

“The fact that former Prime Minister’s life was taken away in such a despicable and barbaric manner, in the midst of an election, which is the foundation of democracy, this is absolutely unforgivable, and I would like to reiterate my condemnation in the strongest possible terms,” Kishida said.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of such a great politician who loved this country, was always one step ahead of the times, and left behind great achievements in various fields in order to pave the way for the future of this country,” he continued. “I would like to express my sincere condolences and respect for the many accomplishments that former Prime Minister Abe has left behind.”

The killing sent shockwaves through Japan, where gun violence is almost unheard of. Only 10 incidents were reported last year, resulting in the death of one person.

Abe was shot in the chest and neck, according to NBC News. He was airlifted to Nara Medical University Hospital and had no vital signs when he arrived, a doctor at the hospital said. Doctors were not able to resuscitate him, and he was pronounced dead at 4:03 a.m. E.T., according to NBC News.

French President Emmanuel Macron Receives Japanese PM Shinzo Abe At Elysee Palace In Paris
Abe listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during a statement to the media on Oct. 17, 2018 in Paris. Chesnot / Getty Images

“He had gun wounds in two locations and died of heart failure from heavily damaged arteries,” said Dr. Hidetaka Fukushima, a professor of emergency medicine at the hospital who operated on Abe.

Footage of the assassination was caught on camera by Japanese broadcaster NHK. Videos showed the suspected shooter being tackled by Abe’s secret service detail. Police identified him as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami. Authorities recovered what they described as a homemade shotgun.

Media in Japan report the suspect said the shooting was not politically motivated, but rather due to a “dissatisfaction” the suspect felt toward Abe.

Gun violence is rare in Japan, with people needing to complete a 12-step process that includes a gun safety class, a written test, a doctor’s permission and an extensive background check in order to obtain a gun.

Even after leaving office, Abe remained a vital part of Japan.

“He is still one of the most visible, if not the most visible, Japanese politician,” Abe biographer Tobias Harris said. “There’s a reason he was out on the campaign trail.”

Abe’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with many leaders mourning his loss on Twitter.

"Incredibly sad news about Shinzo Abe. 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,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote.

“Horrible news of a brutal assassination of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe,” wrote Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “I am extending my deepest condolences to his family and the people of Japan at this difficult time. This heinous act of violence has no excuse.”

“Deeply saddened by the heinous killing of Shinzo Abe, a defender of democracy and my friend & colleague over many years,” wrote NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. “My deepest condolences to his family, PM @kishida230 & the people of #NATO’s partner #Japan at this difficult time.”

“The assassination of @AbeShinzo leaves me shocked and deeply saddened,” wrote German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “My deepest sympathy goes to his family, my colleague Fumio @kishida230 and our Japanese friends. We stand closely by Japan’s side in these difficult hours.”