Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is feared dead after being shot at a campaign event in the Nara region, local media report.
Several Japanese news media outlets, including Kyodo and public broadcaster NHK, reported the development on Friday, saying there had been the sound of an apparent gunshot at the scene of his campaign after which the former leader was found unconscious.
The Japanese government confirmed that Abe had been shot in the western region of Nara.
“Former prime minister Abe was shot at around 11:30 am in Nara. One man, believed to be the shooter, has been taken into custody. The condition of former prime minister Abe is currently unknown,” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
He was taken to the hospital by first responders, media reported. Authorities were quoted as saying that he was in cardio-respiratory arrest.
“A local fire department says former prime minister Abe appears to be in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest,” public broadcaster NHK said –– a term used in Japan before a person can be declared death by a doctor.
Amateur footage showed people rushing towards him as plumes of smoke filled the air behind him. It, however, did not capture the exact moment he was hit.
NHK said a man in his 40s had been arrested for attempted murder and a gun had been confiscated from him.
The former leader was delivering a stump speech at an event ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections, 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.”
Sources close to Abe told NHK that Abe “was shot in the chest,” and a male suspect had been taken into custody.
Abe served as Japan’s prime minister from December 2012 to September 2020, making him the country’s longest-serving prime minister before stepping down in 2020 over alleged ill health.
The 67-year-old has, however, remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP) party, controlling one of its major factions.
His successor, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, faces an upper house election on Sunday in which he is projected to emerge from Abe’s shadow and define his premiership.