Updated Jul 9, 2022 - World

Japan's former leader Shinzo Abe assassinated

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister official residence on August 28, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Franck Robichon - Pool/Getty Images

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died on Friday after being shot while giving a campaign speech, officials said. He was 67.

The big picture: Abe, who was most recently in office from December 2012 to September 2020, was Japan's longest-serving prime minister. He resigned in 2020 for health reasons but remained influential in politics.

What happened: Abe was shot while giving a campaign speech in the city of Nara ahead of Sunday's elections for the parliament’s upper house, NHK reported.

  • He was rushed to the hospital, but showed no vital signs, per NHK. He sustained two gunshot wounds, and died shortly after 5 pm local time, health officials said at a press conference.
  • Police have arrested the suspected shooter, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, according to NHK. The former Japanese Navy member was reportedly discontent with Abe and wanted to kill him as a result, but not due to political differences.
  • The gun found at the scene was apparently handmade. Police said Saturday that the bullet entered Abe's left arm and damaged arteries beneath his collar bones, causing fatal bleeding, AP reports.
  • Shootings are extremely rare in Japan — a country with some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the world. There were 10 shootings and one gun-related death in Japan last year, the Washington Post notes.
  • Abe's widow, Akie Abe, will travel with his body to Tokyo, where his family is located, his office told CNN. Funeral arrangements will be made thereafter.
  • Abe's body was returned to his home in Tokyo on Saturday, per AP.

What they're saying: "He was working for peace and stability in Japan and the world," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said following confirmation of Abe's death

  • "He was a dear friend who loved this country," Kishida added. "To lose such a figure in this manner is absolutely devastating."
  • Earlier Friday, Kishda called the attack against Abe "barbaric and malicious and cannot be tolerated."
  • "This is not a forgivable act," Kishida said, adding that authorities will "take appropriate measures to handle the situation."

World leaders expressed shock and outrage over the assassination.

  • "This is shocking. It's profoundly disturbing... It's also such a strong personal loss for so many people," U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken told reporters in Indonesia where he is attending a gathering of G20 foreign ministers.
  • "In the United States, Prime Minister Abe was an extraordinary partner. And someone who clearly was a great leader for Japan," Blinken added.
  • "Mr Abe was one of the first world leaders I met when I became Prime Minister. He was always focused, thoughtful, and generous," New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
  • "This act of violence against Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister is unfathomable, and we stand with Japan in its condemnation of what has happened today."
  • President Biden said in a statement that he was "stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened" by Abe's death. "This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him."

Background: Abe gained prominence in national politics in the early 2000s, per the New York Times.

  • He first became prime minister in 2006, but abruptly resigned a year later after several political scandals.
  • Abe returned for a second stint as premier in 2012, vowing to revive the economy and amend the country's pacifist Constitution — a goal he failed to accomplish due to poor public support.
  • The end of his tenure saw strong ties with the U.S., particularly former President Trump.
  • By the time he announced he was stepping down in 2020, citing ongoing health issues with ulcerative colitis, his popularity had declined over his handling of the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of political scandals, per the Times.
  • His more than seven years in office offered a rare steady hand at the top of Japanese politics. The country had been known for its frequent prime ministerial turnover before he took office in 2012.

Go deeper: World leaders express shock over assassination of Japan's Shinzo Abe

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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