Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fighting for his life after being shot at a campaign event on Friday, according to incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Kishida condemned the attack as “absolutely unforgivable.”
The shooting of Abe, Japan’s best-known politician, comes despite the country’s strict gun laws and with campaigning underway for upper house elections on Sunday.
“Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot in Nara and I have been informed he is in a very grave condition,” PM Kishida told reporters after arriving in Tokyo by helicopter from the campaign trail.
“I pray that former prime minister Abe will survive,” the visibly emotional leader said.
“It is a barbaric act during election campaigning, which is the foundation of democracy, and it is absolutely unforgivable. I condemn this act in the strongest terms.”
The attack in question occurred just before noon in Japan’s western Nara region, with “one man, believed to be the shooter, [since] taken into custody”, as Hirokazu Matsuno, a government spokesman, told reporters earlier.
Kishida stated that, as of yet, “no decision” has been made concerning the election, though this course of action may change seeing as how several parties have announced that their senior members will be halting their campaigning in light of recent events.
President Abe, 67, was delivering a stump speech with security present when a loud blast was heard. Smoke was visible in the air, and the footage broadcast by NHK showed the president standing on a stage. It is unclear at this time how close spectators were able to approach him.
As spectators and reporters ducked, a man was shown being tackled to the ground by security. The man has been identified by local media as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, citing police sources. Yamagami is described by several media outlets as a former member of the Maritime Self-Defence Force, the country’s navy.
The news of the attack has prompted international shock.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has released a statement saying that he is “shocked to hear the sad news” and sending his prayers to Abe for a speedy recovery. Our thoughts are with him, his family, and the people of Japan during this difficult time.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was utterly appalled and saddened to hear about the “despicable attack”.
“My thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” he said on Twitter.
European Council President Charles Michel said he was “shocked and saddened by [the] cowardly attack”. Abe was “a true friend, fierce defender of multilateral order & democratic values”, Michel tweeted.
Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving leader, was pronounced dead on Friday afternoon, the hospital treating him confirmed, after he was shot at a campaign event.