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World leaders stunned by fatal shooting of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks into microphones.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to the media from his residence Friday after former premier Shinzo Abe was fatally shot.
(Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)

Friday’s shocking assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in one of the world’s safest countries stunned the world and drew condemnation, with Iran calling it an “act of terrorism” and Spain slamming the “cowardly attack.”

Abe, 67, was shot from behind in Nara in western Japan while giving a campaign speech. He was airlifted to a hospital but was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was pronounced dead later at the hospital. Abe was Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020 for health reasons. Police arrested a suspect at the scene.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events, called the shooting “dastardly and barbaric.”

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who shot him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the world’s strictest gun-control laws.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers at a trilateral meeting in Bali, said Abe’s assassination was “profoundly disturbing” and a “personal loss for so many people.”

“For the United States, Prime Minister Abe was an extraordinary partner and someone who clearly was a great leader for Japan and the Japanese people,” Blinken said, adding that Abe, during his time in office, “brought the relationship between our countries — the United States and Japan — to new heights.”

Leaders from Turkey to Singapore condemned the attack, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the shooting “despicable.”

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Newspaper reporting the assassination of Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper printed an extra edition on the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.
(Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press)

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fatally shot during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara. A suspect has been arrested.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his “deepest condolences to his family and the people of Japan at this difficult time.”

“This heinous act of violence has no excuse,” he added.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office cited him as saying that the shooting that led to Abe’s death was “an intolerable criminal act.”

Iran condemned the shooting as “an act of terrorism.”

“As a country that has been a victim of terrorism and has lost great leaders to terrorists, we are following the news closely and with concern,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

People in Japan could be seen reading extra editions of newspapers with Abe’s picture large on the front page, or stopping to watch the news on TV.

Public broadcaster NHK aired dramatic video of Abe giving a speech outside of a train station in the western city of Nara. He is standing, dressed in a navy blue suit, raising his fist, when a gunshot is heard. Video then shows Abe collapsed on the street.

Born into a prominent political family, Shinzo Abe, who was shot at a campaign event, holds the record as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe in 2007 in Berlin.
In a trip to Berlin in 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews an honor guard with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a welcoming ceremony.
(Markus Schreiber/Associated Press)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was visiting her Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, on Friday in Sydney when they learned of the shooting. Ardern said she was “deeply shocked.”

“He was one of the first leaders I formally met when I became prime minister. He was deeply committed to his role, and also generous and kind. I recall him asking after the recent loss of our pet when I met him, a small gesture but one that speaks to the kind of person he is,” Ardern said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Abe was one of Australia’s closest friends and a “giant on the world stage,” adding that “his legacy was one of global impact, and a profound and positive one for Australia. He will be greatly missed.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Saturday a day of national mourning as a mark of deep respect for Abe.

“Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a special strategic and global partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment,” Modi said.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose time in office from 2005 to 2021 largely overlapped that of Abe, said she was “deeply shocked and devastated” by the news that he had died of injuries “inflicted in a cowardly and vile assassination hours earlier.”

“My first thoughts are with his wife and family,” she said in a statement. “I grieve with them. I wish them comfort and support.”

Taiwan’s government said that “Abe spared no effort to push for the progress of Taiwan-Japan relations for many years,” noting Abe’s push amid the COVID-19 pandemic for the Japanese government to donate vaccines to Taiwan.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Italy was embracing Abe’s family, the government and the Japanese people.

“Italy is distraught over the terrible attack against Japan and its free, democratic debate. Abe was a great protagonist of Japanese and international political life in recent decades, thanks to his innovative spirit and reformist vision,” Draghi said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China expressed its sympathies for Abe’s family.


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