Shinzō Abe, Japan's influential ex-prime minister, assassinated by gunman

Nara, Japan - Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, the most influential Japanese politician of the past two decades, has died after he was shot by a gunman during an election campaign event.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.  © via REUTERS

The alleged shooter served in the country's navy for three years until his discharge in 2005, according to Japanese television station NHK, citing Defense Ministry sources.

After being detained, the alleged perpetrator said he was "dissatisfied" and had hoped to kill Abe, NHK reported.

The shooter did not hold a grudge against Abe's political beliefs, the Naha prefectural police cited him as saying.

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Abe was Japan's longest-serving prime minister, from 2012 to 2020. He stepped down due to illness, but maintained a strong political presence.

One of his main focuses was improving the country's defenses and upgrading its constitution so Japan could participate in foreign military ventures.

He was also known for his effort to boost the Japanese economy, which become known as "Abenomics." This involved cheap money, debt-financed stimulus, and the promise of structural reforms to lead Japan out of decades of deflation and economic stagnation.

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The suspect was tackled by Abe's security detail after the shooting.
The suspect was tackled by Abe's security detail after the shooting.  © via REUTERS

The suspect allegedly fired two shots at Abe from behind, using a home-made firearm as Abe gave an election campaign speech to a crowd of people in the city of Nara, at about 11:30 AM local time on Friday (10:30 PM EDT Thursday).

Footage showed the former prime minister lying on the street after the attack, bleeding from the neck, and with internal bleeding in the left side of his chest.

The 67-year-old was flown by helicopter to Nara Medical University Hospital, where he later was declared dead.

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida suspended his election campaign on Friday following the news of the shooting. Kishida left the northern prefecture of Yamagata to return to Tokyo, Japanese media reported. His government reportedly set up a crisis team.

The LDP, the party that Abe led for years, was projected to score a resounding victory in upper house elections on Sunday.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Hiroyuki Hosoda, called the murder "an attack on parliamentary democracy which cannot be tolerated."

Regional and world leaders expressed their shock at the news of the shooting, while the US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, called Abe an "outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the US."

Cover photo: via REUTERS

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