Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in heart failure after apparently being shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan, NHK public television said Friday.
NHK reports said he was bleeding while campaigning around 11:30 am JST.
A gunshot like sound was heard at the time NHK said. An NHK reporter on the scene said they could hear two consecutive bangs during Abe's speech. His security personnel were seen rushing to his aid, in videos and pictures captured.
— NHKニュース (@nhk_news) July 8, 2022
The prime minister’s assailant was caught by the police. A man was arrested for attempted murder, local media reported.
The man appeared to be in his 40s and a gun had been confiscated, said public broadcaster NHK, citing police sources. Local police were not immediately able to comment when contacted by AFP.
Robert Power, an Irish citizen who is visiting Nara, said people are “confused” and “baffled” and there are four helicopters overhead.
“We were told Shinzo Abe was just shot here. Helicopters everywhere,” he told Al Jazeera. “People are just glued to the TV.”
The attack was a shock in a country that's one of the world’s safest and with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.
The term heart failure means the heart cannot sufficiently pump blood and supply necessary oxygen to the rest of the body. In Japan, officials sometimes use the term to describe situations where victims are no longer alive but before a formal declaration of death has been made.
Japanese news agencies said he was taken to the hospital immediately. He suffered from a cardiac arrest shortly after being shot, news agencies reported.
Officials from the Liberal Democratic Party said Abe was attacked by a man from behind.
The former leader had been delivering a stump speech at an event ahead of Sunday's upper house elections when the apparent sound of gunshots were heard, national broadcaster NHK and the Kyodo news agency said.
"He was giving a speech and a man came from behind," a young woman at the scene told NHK.
"The first shot sounded like a toy. He didn't fall and there was a large bang. The second shot was more visible, you could see the spark and smoke," she added.
"After the second shot, people surrounded him and gave him cardiac massage."
Abe, 67, collapsed and was bleeding from the neck, a source from his ruling Liberal Democratic Party told the Jiji news agency.
Neither the LDP nor local police were able to immediately confirm the reports.
NHK and Kyodo both reported Abe was taken to hospital and appeared to be in cardo-respiratory arrest — a term used in Japan indicating no vital signs, and generally preceding a formal certification of death by a coroner.
Abe is a political blue blood who was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. His political rhetoric often focused on making Japan a “normal” and “beautiful” nation with a stronger military and bigger role in international affairs.
US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel expressed sadness and shock at 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 said on Twitter.
We are all saddened and shocked by the shooting of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. 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.
— ラーム・エマニュエル駐日米国大使 (@USAmbJapan) July 8, 2022
With inputs from agencies