Japanese former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been shot while giving a campaign speech and is ‘showing no vital signs’.
He was pictured bleeding and holding his chest as he lay on the ground in the western city of Nara today.
Public broadcaster NHK said he appeared to to be suffering a cardiac arrest and that he is showing no vital signs.
Local reports have said he was shot twice from behind, with wounds spotted on the left side of his chest and possibly in his neck.
Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shotgun attack has been arrested.
He has been named as Tetsuya Yamagami and is thought to be a native of Nara city.
The suspect is thought to have been armed with a homemade firearm and eyewitnesses say he was immediately tackled to the ground by security.
Abe, 67, was airlifted to hospital and was initially conscious and responsive, but it appears his condition has worsened.
‘Such an act of barbarity cannot be tolerated’, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
NHK showed video of Abe making a campaign speech outside a train station when two shots rang out at around 11:30am local time.
The view was then briefly obscured and then security officials were seen tackling a man on the ground.
A puff of smoke behind Abe could be seen in another video in which a loud bang and a gasping crowd can be heard.
‘I thought it was firecrackers at first,’ one bystander told NHK. Political violence is rare in Japan, a country with strict gun regulations.
In 2007 the major of Nagasaki was shot and killed by a Yakuza gangster. The head of the Japan Socialist Party was assassinated during a speech in 1960 by a right-wing youth with a samurai short sword.
Abe served two terms as prime minister to become Japan’s longest-serving premier before stepping down in 2020 citing ill health.
But he has remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling one of its major factions.
His protege, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, goes into Sunday’s upper house election hoping, analysts say, to emerge from Abe’s shadow and define his premiership.
Kishida suspended his election campaign after Abe’s shooting and was returning to Tokyo where he was due to speak to media.
The government said there was no plan to postpone the election but most major parties stopped their campaigns.
This story is being updated – more to follow.
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