Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe shot while giving speech
Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has been airlifted to hospital after being shot while campaigning on a street in Nara, in the country’s west, but his heart had stopped and he was not breathing.
The 67-year-old has gone into cardio and pulmonary arrest after being shot and has been taken to a prefectural hospital, according to local fire department official Makoto Morimoto.
Japan’s public broadcaster NHK aired footage showing Abe collapsed on the street, with several security guards running toward him.
Abe was reportedly holding his chest when he collapsed, his shirt smeared with blood, about 11.30am local time (12.30pm AEST).
NHK reported Abe was rushed to a hospital, showing footage of a helicopter leaving from near the scene of the incident.
Witnesses reported hearing gunshots in the apparent attack in Nara.
Abe was standing while making an election campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s election for the parliament’s upper house when it occurred.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that police arrested an alleged male attacker at the scene
“A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, no matter what the reasons are, and we condemn it strongly,” Matsuno said.
Videos aired on NHK showed a man holding what appeared to be a weapon before he was tackled to the ground by three men in suits.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Abe, is on his way to Tokyo on a helicopter from his own campaign destination of Yamagata, in northern Japan.
Matsuno said all cabinet ministers would be returning to Tokyo from their campaign trips.
Japan is one of the world’s safest countries, having some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.
Japan’s longest-serving PM
The longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history, Abe led the country from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020.
Abe stepped down as prime minister in 2020 because he said a chronic health problem has resurfaced.
Abe has had ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager and has said the condition was controlled with treatment.
He told reporters at the time that it was “gut-wrenching” to leave many of his goals unfinished.
He spoke of his failure to resolve the issue of Japanese abducted years ago by North Korea, a territorial dispute with Russia and a revision of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.
That last goal was a big reason he was such a divisive figure.
His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to normalise Japan’s defence posture angered many Japanese.
Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the US-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.
Supporters of Abe said that his legacy was a stronger US-Japan relationship that was meant to bolster Japan’s defence capability.
But Abe made enemies too by forcing his defence goals 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 often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.
World leaders send messages of support
World leaders have tweeted their messages of support for Abe and shock at the attempt on his life.
US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel expressed sadness and shock at the shooting.
“Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the US,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The US Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, & people of Japan.”
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted that he was “horrified by this terrible news from Japan”, calling Abe “one of the greatest leaders of our times”.
The Australian Ambassador to Japan, Yamagami Shingo, decried the “outrageous” attack on Abe.
“We are all shocked to hear the news,” Shingo shared on Twitter.
“We are following the situation with great concern and we are praying for him.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also taken to Twitter to say his thoughts are with Abe’s family and the people of Japan.
Former US president Donald Trump said it was “absolutely devastating news”.
He wrote on his social media app Truth Social that Abe “was a true friend of mine and, much more importantly, America.
This is a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much. We are all praying for Shinzo and his beautiful family!”