July 9, 2022 Shinzo Abe assassination news

By Rhea Mogul, Helen Regan, Amy Woodyatt, Adrienne Vogt and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

Updated 3:57 PM ET, Sat July 9, 2022
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11:51 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

Mourners leave flowers for Abe at a makeshift memorial near where he was shot

People pray at a makeshift memorial on Saturday near the scene where Shinzo Abe was shot.
People pray at a makeshift memorial on Saturday near the scene where Shinzo Abe was shot. (Kyodo News via AP)

Japanese people have been paying tribute to former leader Shinzo Abe near the scene where he was shot on Friday as the country reels from the shock of the former leader's assassination.

In the wake of the killing, tearful mourners gathered to place flowers and kneel at a makeshift memorial outside the Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, close to where Abe was assassinated.

Dozens of people, some with their children, queued on Saturday with bouquets and prayed at the makeshift memorial.

People line up to offer flowers and pray at the makeshift memorial near the scene on Saturday.
People line up to offer flowers and pray at the makeshift memorial near the scene on Saturday. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

That a former prime minster could be shot dead at close range while giving a speech in broad daylight in a country with one of the world's lowest rates of gun crime has reverberated around Japan and the world. Presidents, prime ministers and other international leaders sent tributes expressing outrage and sadness over the killing.

Mourners fill the street at the memorial site.
Mourners fill the street at the memorial site. (Kyodo News/AP)

Abe, 67, was pronounced dead at at 5:03 p.m. local time on Friday, just over five hours after being shot while delivering a campaign speech in front of a small crowd on a street.

At the time of the shooting, Abe was speaking in support of ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidates ahead of Upper House elections on Sunday, which are still scheduled to go ahead. Despite resigning as Japan's prime minister in 2020 due to health reasons, Abe remained an influential figure in the country's political landscape and continued to campaign for the LDP.

11:22 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

Shinzo Abe had a vision for "a free and open Indo-Pacific"

From CNN's Brad Lendon in Seoul, South Korea

"A free and open Indo-Pacific."

The term has become the mantra of the United States military and its Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees US forces involved in an area that encompasses 36 nations that are home to more than 50% of the world's population, according to the command.

If US warships, warplanes or troops are operating in the region, their presence is almost always announced with a reference to Washington's commitment to "a free and open Indo-Pacific."

But the term comes not from the halls of the Pentagon but from Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese Prime Minister who was assassinated on Friday.

According to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abe announced his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific when giving a speech at a development conference in Kenya in 2016.

At the conference, Abe listed "three pillars" of the vision:

  1. Promotion and establishment of the rule of law, freedom of navigation, free trade, etc.
  2. Pursuit of economic prosperity;
  3. Commitment for peace and stability.

In a speech to Japan’s parliament in 2018, Abe said this about the strategy:

“A vast expanse of sea stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. Since ancient times the people of this region have enjoyed affluence and prosperity from this large and free body of water. Freedom of navigation and the rule of law form their bedrock. We must ensure that these waters are a public good that brings peace and prosperity to all people without discrimination into the future. To this end we will promote the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
9:54 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

A crowd of reporters has gathered outside the Abe family's home

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka in Tokyo

Journalists gather outside the Abe family residence in Tokyo on Saturday.
Journalists gather outside the Abe family residence in Tokyo on Saturday. (Emiko Jozuka/CNN)

Dozens of reporters thronged the street outside the home of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Saturday, one day after his assassination shocked the nation.

Members of the press outnumbered uniformed police officers as they waited for Abe's body to arrive in the capital.

Abe's body is due to arrive in Tokyo mid-afternoon Saturday, his office told CNN.

Abe's widow, Akie Abe, is traveling with his body to Japan's capital. Funeral arrangements are expected to be discussed upon arrival, according to Abe's office.

Takashi Uchida stands outside the Abe family residence in Tokyo on Saturday.
Takashi Uchida stands outside the Abe family residence in Tokyo on Saturday. (Emiko Jozuka/CNN)

Abe's shooting in broad daylight has brought Japan's strict firearms laws into focus, in a country with one of the world's lowest rates of gun violence.

Takashi Uchida, 57, who was passing by Abe's home, said he was shocked when he heard of Abe's shooting on Friday.

"I didn’t expect something like this would happen to someone who was the leader of Japan for such a long time — it’s usually so safe here and we don’t have gun crime," he said.
10:32 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

Abe's body is expected to arrive in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon, his office says

From CNN's Mayumi Maruyama

The car believed to carry the body of Japan's late former prime minister Shinzo Abe passes by policemen and media outside the Nara Medical University Hospital in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture early on July 9.
The car believed to carry the body of Japan's late former prime minister Shinzo Abe passes by policemen and media outside the Nara Medical University Hospital in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture early on July 9. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

The body of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe is due to arrive in Tokyo mid-afternoon Saturday, his office told CNN.

Abe's widow, Akie Abe, is traveling with his body to Japan's capital, where the family resides. Funeral arrangements are expected to be discussed upon arrival, according to Abe's office.

Earlier Saturday, Akie Abe was seen in a car leaving the Nara Medical University Hospital in Nara prefecture where the former Prime Minister was pronounced dead on Friday.

Abe died after being shot on the street in Nara as he delivered a campaign speech — a shocking act of violence in a country with one of the world's lowest rates of gun crime.

9:06 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

In call with Kishida, President Biden expresses "outrage" and "sadness" over Abe's death

From CNN’s Junko Ogura and Pierre Meilhan

US President Joe Biden walks to the Oval Office in Washington, DC, on July 8.
US President Joe Biden walks to the Oval Office in Washington, DC, on July 8. (Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden called Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Friday “to express his outrage, sadness and deep condolences on the tragic and violent shooting death of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo,” the White House said.

Biden “underscored that he and the American people stand with the Prime Minister and the people of Japan in their time of mourning,” according to a White House statement.

The US President also emphasized the “unwavering confidence in the strength of Japan’s democracy” and he discussed with Kishida how Abe’s legacy “will live on as we continue the important task of defending peace and democracy.”
9:36 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated on Friday. Here's what we know

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died after being shot on the street in the city of Nara on Friday — a shocking act of violence in a country with one of the world's lowest rates of gun crime. A 41-year-old man was arrested by police, who said he admitted to shooting Abe.

The widow of the assassinated former leader was seen in the car leaving the Nara Medical University Hospital in Nara prefecture on Saturday morning. Akie Abe is traveling with her husband’s body back to Tokyo, where the family resides, according to public broadcaster, NHK.

Here's what you need to know:

The shooting: Abe was shot at about 11:30 a.m. local time Friday in Nara, east of Osaka, as he gave an election campaign speech on the street. Video aired by public broadcaster NHK captured the moments before the shooting, showing Abe speaking to a small crowd in front of Yamatosaidaiji railway station. In subsequent videos, two shots can be heard and smoke can be seen in the air.

Rushed to the hospital: Abe was rushed to hospital via helicopter at 12:20 p.m. local time. He went into cardiopulmonary arrest — a term used to describe the sudden loss of heart function and breathing — at the site of the shooting and arrived at hospital in a state of cardiac arrest, according to doctors at Nara Medical University. During surgery, doctors discovered a gunshot wound to his neck and a large wound on his heart.

Confirmed dead: Abe died from excessive bleeding and was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m. local time, doctors at the Nara Medical University hospital said. The doctors said the bullet that killed the former Japanese leader was "deep enough to reach his heart" and a team of 20 medical professionals were unable to stop the bleeding.

The suspect: Police arrested unemployed man Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who admitted to shooting Abe. According to police, Yamagami said he holds hatred toward a certain group, which he thought Abe was linked to. He used a homemade gun in the shooting, and authorities confiscated several handmade pistol-like items from his apartment, police said. Yamagami is being investigated as a suspect in a murder case, to which 90 investigators have been assigned, the police added.

World leaders horrified: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida paid his "deepest condolences" to former leader Abe, saying he "was a personal friend, with whom (he) spent a lot of time." Kishida said he had a "great respect for the legacy (Abe) left behind" and would continue election campaigning on Saturday, adding a free and fair election must be defended at all costs. News of the shooting and Abe's subsequent death horrified leaders around the world, many of whom had worked with Abe during his long tenure. US President Joe Biden said he was "stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened," adding he had worked closely with Abe and his killing was "a tragedy for Japan and all who knew him."

Shootings are extremely rare in Japan because of strict gun ownership laws: In 2018, Japan, a country of 125 million people, only reported nine deaths from firearms — compared with 39,740 that year in the United States. Under Japan's firearms laws, the only guns permitted for sale are shotguns and air rifles — handguns are outlawed. But getting them is a long and complicated process that requires strenuous effort — and lots of patience. The laws and the thorough process of background checks have kept the number of private gun owners in Japan extremely low.

11:52 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

Here's what to know about Shinzo Abe's legacy

From CNN staff

Pedestrians watch a news broadcast about the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo, on July 8.
Pedestrians watch a news broadcast about the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo, on July 8. (Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died after being shot during a campaign speech Friday in Nara. He was 67.

Abe served two separate terms as the Japanese leader for the right-leaning Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — the first from 2006 to 2007, then again from 2012 until 2020. His second stint was the longest consecutive term for a Japanese head of government.

He came from a family of Japanese prime ministers: Abe was born on Sept. 21, 1954, in Tokyo, to a prominent political family. Both his grandfather and great uncle served as prime minister, and his father was a former secretary general of the LDP.

Abe was first elected to Japan's House of Representatives in 1993, at age 38. He held a number of cabinet positions throughout the 2000s, and in 2003 became secretary general of the LDP. Four years later, he was named the party's president and became prime minister of Japan.

His first term was marred by controversies and worsening health, and he stepped down as party leader and prime minister in 2007. The end of Abe's first term opened a revolving door in which five different men held the prime minister post in five years until his re-election in 2012. He stepped down in 2020 citing ill health.

He continued to be an influential leader after leaving office: After leaving office, Abe remained head of the largest faction of the ruling LDP and remained influential within the party. He has continued to campaign for a stronger security policy and last year angered China by calling for a greater commitment from allies to defend democracy in Taiwan. In response, Beijing summoned Japan's ambassador and accused Abe of openly challenging China's sovereignty.

Abe redefined Japan's diplomatic and military policy: Abe will be remembered for boosting defense spending and pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years. In 2015, his government passed a reinterpretation of Japan's postwar, pacifist constitution, allowing Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat — with conditions — for the first time since World War II.

Abe argued the change was needed to respond to a more challenging security environment, a nod to a more assertive China and frequent missile tests in North Korea.

During his term, Abe sought to improve relations with Beijing and held a historic phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. At the same time, he tried to counter Chinese expansion in the region by uniting Pacific allies.

He attempted to build a personal relationship with former United States President Donald Trump. As Washington's relationship with Pyongyang tipped toward diplomacy, with both Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in holding historic summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Abe said he was "determined" to meet Kim. Abe wanted to normalize relations with North Korea and ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but his first priority was to bring some closure for the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.

During his tenure, Japan's relations with South Korea soured. The two countries were engaged in a major dispute in which trade and military intelligence deals were scrapped, partly due to the legacy of World War II and Japan's brutal colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

"Abenomics": Abe came to office during a time of economic turmoil and soon set about rebooting Japan's economy after decades of stagnation. Soon after he was re-elected prime minister in 2012, he launched a grand experiment popularly known as "Abenomics."

It included three so-called arrows — massive monetary stimulus, increased government spending, and structural reforms.

After a strong start, it faltered and in 2015, Abe fired "three new arrows" designed to boost gross domestic product. Any hopes they might eventually hit their mark were dashed when Covid-19 swept through the country in 2020, tipping Japan into recession.

One of Abe's major domestic achievements was securing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But the success of the much anticipated Tokyo Games was ultimately undone by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the competition to be postponed to 2021.

Abe declared a state of emergency months after the first cases were detected. His administration was also criticized for the low rate of testing, and an early lack of specialist medical equipment to treat the rising number of patients.

More successful was Abe's handling of the abdication of Emperor Akihito, the first Japanese monarch to step down in two centuries. He was succeeded by his son, Emperor Naruhito, in October 2019, starting the Reiwa era.

Abe is survived by his wife Akie Abe, née Matsuzaki, who he married in 1987. The couple did not have children.

Read more about his legacy here and see his life in photos here.

9:00 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

"A kind and decent man": World leaders pay tribute to Shinzo Abe

From CNN staff

Tributes to Shinzo Abe have poured in from politicians around the world, many of whom recalled their visits with the former leader and expressed their shock at his killing.

French President Emmanuel Macron said “Japan has lost a great prime minister." “On behalf of the French people, I send my condolences to the Japanese authorities and people after the assassination of Shinzo Abe. Japan has lost a great Prime Minister, who dedicated his life to his country and worked to bring balance to the world,” Macron tweeted.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Abe's assassination "shocking," and praised him as "a leader with great vision" and an "extraordinary partner," who took US-Japanese relations "to new heights." “It’s profoundly disturbing in and of itself, it’s also such a strong personal loss for so many people," Blinken said Friday.

A number of former leaders who worked with Abe during his time as Japanese prime minister also offered their condolences.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron said Abe was "a good friend personally, a strong partner to the UK, and a thoroughly kind and decent man." He called his death "devastating and truly shocking."

Israel's ex-leader Benjamin Netanyahu said he "will always remember Shinzo Abe and cherish our deep friendship," while Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French prime minister, called him "a great leader who left his mark on Japan."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Abe's death "incredibly shocking," adding that he was "deeply saddened." Trudeau tweeted, "The world has lost a great man of vision, and Canada has lost a close friend. My thoughts are with his wife, Akie, and the people of Japan as they mourn this loss. You’ll be missed, my friend."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called Abe "a brilliant leader" in a tweet Friday. “I receive with extreme indignation and grief the news of the death of @AbeShinzo, a brilliant leader who was a great friend of Brazil. I extend to Abe's family, as well as to our Japanese brothers, my solidarity and my wish that God watch over their souls in this moment of pain," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sent his “deepest condolences” to Abe’s family and the people of Japan. “Horrible news of a brutal assassination of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. I am extending my deepest condolences to his family and the people of Japan at this difficult time. This heinous act of violence has no excuse,” Zelensky tweeted.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she was “extremely pained” by Abe's passing, referring to the late leader as “the staunchest friend of Taiwan.” Tsai Ing-wen said Abe was “an old friend” she had known “for more than a decade.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres tweeted his condolences over Abe's assassination. “I’m deeply saddened by the horrific killing of Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan,” Guterres said. “I had the privilege of knowing him for years & will always remember his collegiality & commitment to multilateralism. My condolences to his family, and the people & Government of Japan.”

Former US President Barack Obama said he’s “shocked and saddened” by Abe's assassination. In a statement, he recounted the close relationship the two leaders forged during his second term in office and the “extraordinary alliance” between the two nations. In 2016, Obama traveled to Hiroshima with Abe — becoming the first sitting US President to do so — and later that year, Abe returned the gesture, becoming the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor.

Former US President George W. Bush, who worked with Abe during his first stint as Japanese prime minister in 2006, said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened to learn of the senseless assassination," adding that "Shinzo Abe was a patriot of his country who wanted to continue serving it."

Queen Elizabeth II, in a message of condolence to the emperor of Japan, said Abe's "love for Japan, and his desire to forge ever-closer bonds with the United Kingdom, were clear. I wish to convey my deepest sympathy and condolences to his family and to the people of Japan at this difficult time.”

8:07 p.m. ET, July 8, 2022

Japan had only one gun-related death reported in 2021

From CNN's Mayumi Maruyama

Japan reported only one death due to firearms in 2021, according to the National Police Agency. A total of 10 firearm-related incidents were reported in the country in 2021 — up from seven in 2020.

Eight of the 10 reported incidents were gang-related, the agency's report states.

In the past five years, the highest number of firearm-related deaths per year reported in Japan was four.

The data indicates just how rare gun violence is in Japan, which can be credited to its strict gun ownership laws and thorough background check processes.

In 2018, Japan, a country of 125 million people, only reported nine deaths from firearms — compared with 39,740 that year in the United States.

Under Japan's firearms laws, the only guns permitted for sale are shotguns and air rifles — handguns are outlawed. But getting them is a long and complicated process that requires strenuous effort — and lots of patience.

To buy a gun in Japan, potential buyers must:

  • Attend an all-day class
  • Pass a written test
  • Pass a shooting-range test with an accuracy of at least 95%
  • Undergo mental health evaluation and drug tests
  • Undergo a rigorous background check — including a review of their criminal record, personal debt, involvement in organized crime and relationships with family and friends.

After obtaining a gun, the owner must register their weapon with police and provide details of where their gun and ammunition is stored, in separate, locked compartments. The gun must be inspected by the police once a year, and gun owners must retake the class and sit an exam every three years to renew their license.

Read more about Japan's gun laws here.