Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Dies After Shooting

The former prime minister of Japan was giving a speech when he was shot from behind with a shotgun.

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Shinzo Abe standing at a lectern

Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister.

Carl Court/Getty

Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was shot and killed Friday while delivering a speech in the city of Nara, 40 minutes east of Osaka. His death was first reported by Japan's state broadcaster NHK.

Abe, 67, was speaking ahead of Japanese Upper House elections on Sunday. Police say that Abe was shot from behind with a makeshift shotgun, according to local media. A 41-year-old man, named as Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested at the scene.

Video of the scene shows Abe giving a stump speech by a street curb, with no stage or barriers separating him from the audience. A cloud of smoke erupts from behind Abe before the video stops. You can see it here -- though there is no graphic violence, viewer discretion is recommended. 

"This heinous act, we don't know the detailed information yet," said current prime minister Fumio Kishida, "but elections are being held. This is the very foundation of democracy, and that such an incident took place is barbaric, and malicious and it cannot be tolerated."

"I am stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo ... was shot and killed while campaigning," President Joe Biden said in a statement. "Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service. Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy."

Abe served twice as Japan's prime minister. Following a one-year stint in 2007, he held the office between 2012 and 2020. Those eight years made him the longest-serving prime minister in the country's history. Abe was never voted out of the prime minister's office but resigned both times due to health issues stemming from ulcerative colitis.

Considered a hardline conservative in Japan, Abe was known for his advocacy of revoking Japan's post-World War II pacifism -- the country is technically not allowed to have an army -- by beefing up its Self-Defense Forces. Internationally, Abe was recognized as having played a deft diplomat with China, standing up to the rising power while simultaneously easing relations that were at a tense spot prior to his becoming prime minister in 2012.

Abe was in Nara campaigning for Kei Sato, a member of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party in the upper house of Japan's Diet parliament, ahead of Sunday's elections.

He was heir to one of Japan's political dynasties. Abe's father, Shintaro Abe, served as Japan's foreign minister from 1982 to 1986. Nobusuke Kishi, Shinzo's grandfather, was a prime minister and helped found the Liberal Democratic Party that's been in power for 63 of the 67 years since its inception. In 1960, Abe's grandfather Kishi survived an assassination attempt in which he was stabbed six times.