Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving leader

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving leader of modern Japan, was gunned down on Friday while campaigning for a parliamentary election, shocking a country wherepolitical violence had become almost unthinkable.

Abe, 67, was pronounced dead around five and a half hours after the shooter opened fire on him from behind as he spoke to members of the public from a drab traffic island in the western city of Nara. Authorities arrested a 41-year-old man. Japanese media reported that the weapon appeared to be a homemade gun.

“I am simply speechless over the news of Abe’s death,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Abe’s protege, told reporters.

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Earlier, as Abe still lay in hospital where doctors tried to revive him, Kishida struggled to keep his emotions in check.

“This attack is an act of brutality that happened during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” he said.

Abe had been making a campaign speech outside a train station when two shots rang out. Security officials were then seen tackling a man in a grey T-shirt and beige trousers.

“There was a loud bang and then smoke,” businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was at the scene, told Reuters. “The first shot, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special police tackled him.”

Kyodo news service published a photograph of Abe lying face-up on the street by a guardrail, blood on his white shirt. People were crowded around him, one administering heart massage.

Abe was taken to hospital in cardiopulmonary arrest and showing no vital signs. He was declared dead at 5:03 p.m. (0803 GMT), having bled to death from deep wounds to the heart and the right side of his neck.

He had received more than 100 units of blood in transfusions over four hours, Hidetada Fukushima, the professor in charge of emergency medicine at Nara Medical University Hospital, told a televised news conference.

NHK quoted the suspected shooter, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was dissatisfied with Abe and wanted to kill him. The suspect told police he had made multiple handmade explosives and guns in the past, NHK said.

Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He held office in 2006 for a year and then again from 2012 to 2020 before stepping down, citing health reasons.

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