What We Know About the Shinzo Abe Assassination


Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan who held the office longer than anyone else, was fatally shot on Friday while giving a speech for a political candidate in the city of Nara.

His killing shocked Japan, where gun violence of any kind is rare. Though Mr. Abe, who was 67, stepped down in 2020, he was still a force in Japanese politics. The police have arrested a suspect.

Here’s what we know about the case so far.

A Nara resident, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was apprehended moments after the shooting. The police say he confessed that he had intended to kill Mr. Abe. Mr. Yamagami held “a grudge” against a group that he believed Mr. Abe was associated with, according to the police, who did not identify the group.

Little is publicly known about Mr. Yamagami, who appears to have spent three years in Japan’s Navy. The police have charged him with murder.

On Sunday, they said they were investigating whether he had attended an earlier Abe speech, on the day before the killing. Video from that rally, in the city of Okayama, shows a man who looks like Mr. Yamagami standing behind the former prime minister.

Mr. Abe, one of Japan’s most prominent figures, was shot at close range, in daylight, by a gunman who walked past security guards unobstructed. Only after firing a second shot was the assailant tackled and subdued. Many people, in Japan and beyond, have asked how that could be possible.

Tomoaki Onizuka, the head of the Nara prefectural police, said on Saturday that it was “undeniable that there were problems in the security” provided for Mr. Abe.

In Japan, where the crime rate is low and guns are difficult to come by, it has been common for politicians to mingle freely with voters. That could now change. As Prime Minister Fumio Kishida campaigned on Saturday, police officers patrolled rooftops and subjected residents to body scans.

Japan has some of the toughest gun laws in the world, and fatal shootings are extremely rare. There was only one in all of last year, excluding accidents or suicides, according to the National Police Agency.

Those onerous restrictions on buying firearms did not stop Mr. Abe’s killer because he used a crude homemade gun. The police say they found several others like it when they searched his home. They also found boards that appeared to have been used for target practice.

Mr. Abe resigned as prime minister, citing health problems, in 2020. Days earlier, he had set a record for the longest uninterrupted run in office by any Japanese premier: nearly eight years. (He had also served a much shorter term in 2006-7.)

After stepping down, he wielded much behind-the-scenes influence with the governing Liberal Democratic Party, and was sometimes referred to as a “shadow shogun.” When he was shot, Mr. Abe was campaigning for one of the party’s candidates for the Upper House of Parliament in elections held Sunday.



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