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Shinzo Abe, Former Prime Minister of Japan, Is Assassinated

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on August 28, 2020. Photo: STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died on Friday, several hours after he was shot while delivering a campaign speech in western Japan. He was 67.

Abe was giving a speech for a candidate from the Liberal Democratic Party in Nara, near Osaka. At around 11:30 a.m. local time, a gunman approached Abe from behind, firing two shots that hit the former prime minister in the chest and neck, according to Politico. Abe was airlifted to a hospital for treatment, but he was not breathing and his heart had stopped, the AP reported. Medical officials from Nara Medical University said he died of blood loss.

A suspect was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder at the scene. Police later identified him as Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old Nara resident. His occupation is unknown, but the Defense Ministry said someone with the same name served in the navy from 2002 to 2005, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Police described the weapon used in the attack as an improvised firearm. Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan, as the country has very strict gun laws. CNN reported:

In 2018, Japan, a country of 125 million people, only reported nine deaths from firearms — compared with 39,740 that year in the United States, according to data compiled by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.

Nancy Snow, Japan director of the International Security Industrial Council, said the shooting would change Japan forever.

“It’s not only rare, but it’s really culturally unfathomable,” she told CNN. “The Japanese people can’t imagine having a gun culture like we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I really feel at a loss for words.”

Abe, who resigned in 2020 citing health issues, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and his assassination has stunned the nation. World leaders and diplomats have been sharing condolences and remembrances of their former colleague.

Shinzo Abe, Former Prime Minister of Japan, Is Assassinated