Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been rushed to hospital after collapsing in a suspected shooting in Nara city. An NHK reporter at the scene says she heard a sound like gunfire at around 11:30 a.m. Abe was delivering a speech at the time.
Police sources say Abe was likely hit from behind by shotgun fire.
Emergency officials say he was taken to hospital without vital signs.
Police apprehended a suspect at the scene and arrested him for attempted murder. Officers have seized a gun.
NHK political commentator Masuda Tsuyoshi says the incident is sending shockwaves across Japan.
Abe is the leader of the largest faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and wields great influence.
He was in Nara to campaign for a candidate in this weekend's Upper House election.
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio heard the news as he was traveling in Yamagata Prefecture. Officials are currently gathering information about the incident which one LDP faction leader is calling a challenge to democracy.
The faction leader said violence should never be tolerated, adding that he is praying for Abe's recovery.
Prime Minister Kishida cancelled his remaining campaign events for Friday. He was slated to deliver speeches in Fukushima and Kyoto during the afternoon. He is now heading back to Tokyo.
Former Lower House Speaker Oshima Tadamori has told NHK that he is shocked by what is unfolding in Nara. He says political expression should never be suppressed through violence, and the use of a firearm is unacceptable.
While Tokyo stocks surged during the morning session, news broke during the lunch break that Abe had been shot. During the afternoon session, traders reduced their earlier gains.
One expert said the selling was a shock reaction, explaining there won't be specific political implications as Abe had stepped down as Prime Minister some time ago, in September 2020.
Police arrested Yamagami Tetsuya for attempted murder. A gun seized at the scene appears to be handmade.
The 41-year-old suspect lives in Nara city.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed deep concern over Abe's condition. Blinken is attending a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali. According to agency reports, he said: "Our thoughts, our prayers, are with him, with the people of Japan."
Japanese Defense Ministry officials say Yamagami Tetsuya, who is under arrest for attempted murder, worked for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years until 2005. Sources with the investigation tell NHK that the gun he used appeared to be handmade.
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio spoke publicly for the first time since the shooting. He said, "This despicable, barbaric act that took place in the midst of an election, the very foundation of democracy, cannot be tolerated. We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms."
The Prime Minister said no motive has yet been established for the attack. And he said doctors are working to save Abe's life.
NHK has learned that the suspect told police he conducted the shooting, but he doesn’t hold anything against Abe politically.
Abe’s wife Akie arrived in Nara and headed to the hospital.
Police searched the suspect’s house in Nara city. They later said they had found what appeared to be an explosive there.
Political leaders around the world have been expressing concern for Abe.
Officials from Japan's ruling party say former Japanese Prime Minister has been confirmed dead.
Doctors at Nara Medical University Hospital, where Abe was treated, say he was transferred there without vital signs. They say there were two gunshot wounds in his neck, and he sustained damage to a heart vessel. They said the cause of death appears to be blood loss.
NHK World’s Terui Takafumi, at the shooting site in Nara, says politicians in Japan often give speeches from the top of a truck, but Abe was at street level, very close to a large crowd.
Japan’s National Police Agency says it will confirm whether the arrangements at the site were adequate.
Guns are strictly controlled in Japan and shootings are very rare. Authorities reported only 10 gun incidents last year. Only one was fatal.