India’s great friend, Japan’s ex-PM Shinzo Abe assassinated

Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot earlier today, died in a hospital, local media reported. Citing a senior member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, national broadcaster NHK said “former prime minister Abe died at a hospital in Kashihara city, Nara, where he was receiving medical treatment. He was 67.” 

The assassination of the country’s best-known politician comes despite Japan’s strict gun laws and with campaigning underway ahead of upper house elections on Sunday. Earlier Prime Minister Fumio Kishida abandoned the campaign trail and flew to Tokyo by helicopter where he addressed reporters in a voice that wavered with emotion. 

“Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot in Nara and I have been informed he is in a very grave condition,” he said. “I pray that former prime minister Abe will survive,” he added, condemning “a barbaric act during election campaigning, which is the foundation of democracy.” 

The attack came before noon in the country’s western region of Nara, where Abe, 67, had been delivering a stump speech with security present, but spectators able to approach him easily. 

Footage broadcast by NHK showed him standing on a stage when a man dressed in a grey shirt and brown trousers begins approaching from behind, before drawing something from a bag and firing. 

At least two shots appear to be fired, each producing a cloud of smoke. As spectators and reporters ducked, a man was shown being tackled to the ground by security. He was later arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, reports said. 

Local media identified the man as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, citing police sources, with several media outlets describing him as a former member of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, the country’s navy. 

He was wielding a weapon described by local media as a “handmade gun”, and NHK said he told police after his arrest that he “targeted Abe with the intention of killing him”. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter and expressed his shock after the confirmation of the former PM’s demise made headlines. He credited the late leader for his ‘immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations’ and wrote, “Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment.” He also declared national mourning on July 9 as a mark of respect for the former PM. 

The national flag will be flown at half-mast throughout India on Saturday on all buildings where it is flown regularly. 

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday condoled the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and said he was India’s “valued friend”. 

“Pained to learn about the assassination of the former PM of Japan and India’s valued friend, Mr Shinzo Abe. His efforts in strengthening the India-Japan relationship will always be held fondly in our memories. My deepest condolences to his family, followers & the people of Japan,” Shah tweeted.  

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