Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader, died on Friday hours after being shot while campaigning for a parliamentary election, startling a country where political violence is uncommon and guns are strictly regulated.

According to Japanese media, Abe, 67, was shot from behind with an apparently handmade rifle while speaking on a drab traffic island in the western city of Nara.

It was the first assassination of a serving or former Japanese prime minister since the prewar years of 1936.

Doctors tried everything they could to save Abe, but he died at 5:03 p.m. (0803 GMT), approximately five and a half hours after he was shot.

A doctor informed a nationally televised news conference that he died from two severe wounds, one on the right side of his neck. When the previous commander was brought in, he had no vital signs.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the attack in “strongest terms” before Abe’s death was known, while Japanese people and foreign leaders reacted horror.

“This attack is an act of brutality that happened during the elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” Kishida remarked, fighting to control his emotions.

A 41-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the shooting, according to police. According to NHK, the suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police he was dissatisfied with Abe and planned to kill him.

When two guns broke out outside a railway station, Abe was giving a campaign rally. Security personnel were then seen tackling a man wearing a grey T-shirt and beige pants.

“There was a loud bang and then smoke,” said businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was present at the scene.

“The first shot, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special police tackled him.”


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