Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe collapsed bleeding and appeared to show no vital signs after reportedly being shot during a campaign speech in western Japan, NHK public television said Friday.
The broadcaster aired footage showing Abe collapsed on the street, with several security guards running toward him. Abe was holding his chest when he collapsed, with his shirt smeared with blood.
The ex-leader was rushed to a hospital, NHK said. The station reported that he appeared to have no vital signs, citing a local fire department.
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.
Japan has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. Prospective owners must undergo formal instruction as well as written, mental, and drug tests and a rigorous background check.
A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, NHK said, and police retrieved a gun from the scene.
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When he returned to office for the second time in 2012, Abe vowed to revitalize the nation and get its economy out of its deflationary doldrums with his “Abenomics” formula, which combines fiscal stimulus, monetary easing, and structural reforms.
One of Abe’s major domestic successes has been his successful bid to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but that success was tarnished by the coronavirus pandemic that forced its postponement to 2021.
His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.
Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said “we are all saddened and shocked” by the shooting.
“Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the U.S. The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, & people of Japan,” he wrote in a tweet.
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY; The Associated Press