Gunman admits shooting dead former Japanese PM

A man has admitted assassinating the former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, police have said.

Mr Abe, 67, was shot twice from behind while giving a speech at a campaign rally in the western city of Nara.

He bled to death after sustaining two deep neck wounds that damaged an artery.

It is the first assassination of a sitting or former Japanese premier since the 1930s.

Named in media reports as 41-year-old Yamagami Tetsuya, the gunman appeared unemotional when talking to investigators and has been responding calmly to questions.

Background of Abe’s suspected assassin emerges – live updates

Explosives have been found at the unemployed suspect’s home and officers are recommending nearby residents evacuate their homes.

Pictures from the scene show what appears to be a homemade firearm. It was made of a mix of materials including metal and wood, police said.

It remains unclear whether the parts for it were bought on the internet and if it was made on a 3D printer.

An image isolated on video appears to show him moments before the shooting took place.

Dressed in a grey T-shirt and beige trousers, he was wrestled to the ground by police.

He told investigators he spent three years working for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force.

According to state broadcaster NHK, he told police he was unhappy with Mr Abe and intended to kill him.

But Kyodo News said he had not been motivated by a grudge against Mr Abe’s political beliefs.

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Man suspected of shooting Shinzo Abe arrested

Major damage to the heart

Mr Abe had no vital signs when he arrived at Nara Medical University Hospital and was never revived after suffering major damage to his heart.

More than 100 units of blood were given during four hours of blood transfusions as Mr Abe haemorrhaged.

Mr Abe held his chest as he collapsed, his shirt smeared with blood. NHK showed footage of security guards running towards him.

A puff of white smoke was seen as he made a campaign speech outside a railway station ahead of elections to Japan’s upper house on Sunday.

A reporter at the scene said they heard two consecutive bangs during Mr Abe’s address.

This image appears to show the suspect in the background as Mr Abe arrived for his speech
This image appears to show the suspect in the background as Shinzo Abe arrived for his speech

Fumio Kishida, the prime minister, said the “act of brutality” was “absolutely unforgivable”. He has asked all members of the cabinet to return to Tokyo.

One of the most important world leaders of the 20th and 21st century

Dominic Waghorn - Diplomatic editor

Dominic Waghorn

International Affairs Editor


Shinzo Abe was quite simply Japan’s longest serving, most important and most recognisable post-war prime minister. His big hair and smiling face will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to recent international affairs.

He wanted to transform Japan, taking it from its post war reticence on the world stage to a more assertive prominent role, so it would act the size of its economy. That meant overcoming opposition to plans to increase defence spending and changing the constitution but he believed it was worth it.

Alexander Downer, Chairman of the Policy Exchange and former Australian foreign minister saw Shinzo Abe up close on the world stage. He told Sky News he was one of the most important world leaders of the 20th and 21st century.

“He was as important to Japan and in changing Japan’s standing in the world as Margaret Thatcher was to the UK or maybe Ronald Reagan to the United States.”

For some, he went too far accused of whitewashing Japan’s wartime and imperialist past, but supporters say he was right to move the country on recognising the need ahead of time to prepare for the threat posed by a rising Russia, meddlesome China and nuclear armed North Korea.

He retired as prime minister because of ill health but remained a powerful figure pushing for a stronger, bolder Japan. His force of personality and conviction will be sorely missed at home and among allies.

Mr Kishida said a free and fair election is something that must be defended at all costs, and that campaigning will continue on Saturday.

Mr Kishida said he had great respect for Mr Abe’s legacy.

‘Absolutely unforgivable, no matter what the reasons are’

Political violence is rare in Japan, which has strict gun regulations.

In a nation of 125 million people there were only 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in one death and four injuries, according to police.

The majority of those cases – eight – were gang-related.

“A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, no matter what the reasons are, and we condemn it strongly,” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pictured in Tokyo in December 2020
Shinzo Abe pictured in Tokyo in December 2020

Boris Johnson, the outgoing prime minister, said Mr Abe’s death was “incredibly sad news”.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Mr Abe was a “wonderful person, great democrat and champion of the multilateral world order”.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, said the “heinous act of violence has no excuse”.

Mr Abe served two terms as prime minister – becoming Japan’s longest-serving premier – before stepping down in 2020, saying a chronic health problem had resurfaced.

He has suffered from ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager.

He has remained a dominant presence in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, controlling one of its major factions.

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