JAPAN (Fwrd Axis) — Former Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe has been rushed to the hospital bleeding and unresponsive after being shot in the chest while delivering a speech in the city of Nara, NHK reported on Friday.
Gunshots were heard in the area at the time Abe collapsed and a male suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, was taken into custody. Yamagami did not run and surrendered peacefully to authorities. An NHK reporter who was on the scene said there were two “gunshot-like” sounds during Abe’s speech.
Abe was giving a campaign speech when he was shot around 11:30 a.m. local time. The former prime minister was in a state of “cardiopulmonary arrest”, according to NHK, citing the local fire department. He was airlifted to Nara Medical University Hospital and was not breathing and his heart stopped while being airlifted.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Cabinet ministers are returning to Tokyo. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Abe’s condition remained “unknown”.
“Such a barbaric act is utterly unacceptable, and we categorically condemn it,” he said.
An emotional Kishida provided an update on Abe’s condition, saying he is in critical condition and doctors are working to save his life.
“I pray from the bottom of the heart that he will survive this,” Kishida said. “This is a despicable and barbaric act that occurred in the midst of an election which is the foundation of democracy and absolutely cannot be tolerated.”
The former prime minister was speaking while campaigning for other members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party at a rally with the elections for the upper house of the Japanese Parliament being set for Sunday.
Iwao Horii, an LDP member of the upper house was standing next to Abe when the shots occurred.
“We heard two loud sounds while he was talking and he fell immediately after that,” said Horii at a news conference. “This is something that shakes the very foundations of democracy and cannot be forgiven. “At this point, we are all praying for the quick recovery of former Prime Minister Abe.”
Shinzo Abe resigned as prime minister two years ago, citing his ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel condition, getting worse. He is Japan’s longest-lasting prime minister, serving for a total of eight years.
Gun violence in Japan is very rare. Handguns are banned and individuals must have the training requirements and undergo extensive background checks to obtain a firearm.
Videos making the rounds on social media show the chaotic aftermath of the shooting with Abe laying on the ground with blood on his shirt. Those at the scene said his staff quickly administered CPR to the former prime minister.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel released a statement early Friday morning, saying he was shocked by the news.
“Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the United States,” Emanuel said. “The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and people of Japan.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Indonesia for the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting said he is “deeply saddened and deeply concerned” by the news.
“We are deeply saddened and deeply concerned we are by the news coming from Japan, about the attempt on the life of former Prime Minister Abe,” he said. “Our thoughts, our prayers are with him and his family, with the people of Japan. “This is a very, very sad moment, and we’re awaiting news from Japan.”
Former President Donald Trump posted to his Truth Social website late Thursday, calling Shinzo Abe “a truly great man and leader.”
“He was a true friend of mine and, much more importantly, America,” Trump said. “This is a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much. We are all praying for Shinzo and his beautiful family!”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is available.