TOKYO, July 7, 2022 (UPI) — Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, died on Friday hours after being shot while giving a speech in the western city of Nara, officials said.
His death was confirmed during an evening press conference by Hidetada Fukushima, the professor in charge of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University Hospital where doctors attempted to save his life.
Abe arrived at the hospital at 12:20 p.m. with no vital signs and was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m. after doctors administered more than 100 units of blood in transfusions but were unable to resuscitate him, Fukushima said.
Abe was shot at around 11:30 a.m. in Nara, located just east of Osaka, while he was making a campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s elections for the upper house of parliament, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno confirmed to reporters during a brief press conference.
Outrageous acts of this kind are absolutely intolerable, no matter the reason, and I strongly condemn this act,” he said.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who returned to Tokyo from campaigning in Yamagata due to the shooting, told reporters that Abe’s condition was critical.
“I understand that all-out emergency measures are being taken,” he said. “First and foremost, I offer my heartfelt prayers that former Prime Minister Abe is somehow spared.”
He said he was unsure of the motive behind the “despicable act” but suggested it may have been political due to its timing.
“I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
All politicians out campaigning ahead of this weekend’s election have been instructed to return to Tokyo, he said.
Video of the incident circulating on social media shows Abe, who was giving a speech outside near Yamato-Saidaiji Station, crumple to the ground as smoke billows behind him and two blasts are heard.
NHK reported that he was rushed to the hospital in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest.
Police told the public broadcaster that they arrested Yamagami Tetsuya, 41, on allegations of attempted murder. They confiscated a weapon on the scene, which appeared in images to be a homemade gun.
The Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency confirmed that Abe suffered two gunshot wounds, one to his neck and another to his chest.
Abe, 67, was the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history and remained one of the country’s most influential — and controversial — politicians.
He held office from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 until 2020, when he resigned due to health issues. The conservative leader was best known for his package of growth-oriented economic reforms, Abenomics, as well as his quest to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow for a more active military.
Even in retirement, Abe was a power broker. He had been busy on the campaign trail in recent days stumping for candidates from his Liberal Democratic Party, which has maintained a near-monopoly on political power in Japan.
Shootings in Japan are extremely rare as it has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. According to the Japanese government, “[i]n principle, the possession of firearms and swords is prohibited.”
According to statistics from Japan’s National Police Agency, there were 10 shooting incidents last year, the majority involving gang activity, resulting in one death and four people injured.
Political attacks and assassinations are also exceedingly rare. In 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, the leader of the Japan Socialist Party, was stabbed and killed by a right-wing ultranationalist youth, while in 1990 the mayor of Nagasaki, Hitoshi Motoshima, was shot but survived.
Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, issued a statement expressing the United States’ shock and sadness over the shooting.
“Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the U.S.,” he tweeted. “The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family & people of Japan.”
Following his death, world leaders expressed their condolences.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was “deeply saddened by the heinous killing of Shinzo Abe, a defender of democracy and my friend & colleague over many years.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Abe will be remember by many for his global leadership “through uncharted times.”
“My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people,” he tweeted. “The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time.”
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said Europeans were in mourning with Japan.
“I will never understand the brutal killing of a great man,” he said.