SEOUL, South Korea — Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a gunman during a campaign speech Friday in Nara, Japan.
Abe was in the middle of a speech on the street when he was shot. Witnesses heard two loud bangs accompanied by smoke that confused the scene. Abe reportedly suffered bullet wounds. local reports say.
Police have one suspect in custody, a 41-year old local man and Defense sources say the suspect worked for the Maritime Self Defense Force for three years until around 2005.
Authorities have identified the suspect as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, according to NHK. A weapon, described as a shotgun, was recovered at the scene.
Abe has remained a central figure within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party where he controlled a dominant faction. Known to be a hard line conservative inside his party, Abe served as Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2005 to 2006 under Junichiro Koizumi. He was then elected as president of the Liberal Democratic Party and inaugurated to be the prime minister of Japan in 2006 at the age of 52, as the youngest prime minister since World War II.
He served from 2006 to 2007 and then again from 2012 to 2020, before stepping down due to chronic health issues. He later revealed he was being treated for ulcerative colitis, a chronic intestinal disease.
Abe was in particularly good relations with Washington but relations with neighboring Korea and China had strained over the years due to his right-wing nationalist views.
His visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to honor World War II criminals and as well as laws passed during his time in office allowing Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to participate in wars alongside allies overseas had angered neighboring countries. Abe was also a strong vocal critic of Beijing as he sided with Taiwan’s desire to be recognized as a democratic independent state.
Perhaps no other leader had closer ties with former President Donald Trump than Abe. He was the first foreign leader to meet the former president after he was elected in 2016. Trump called Abe “the greatest prime minister in Japan’s history” and the two leaders held a total of 14 official meetings total. They were also known to have been “golf buddies” playing together five times during Abe’s second term as prime minister.
During his tenure Abe pursued aggressive economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics” to bolster Japanese economic growth that had become stagnant after two decades of sustained success. His “three arrows” strategy was characterized by monetary easing from the Bank of Japan, government spending, and economic structural reforms. Abe’s policy reforms reduced real interest rates and generated inflationary expectations in the market but, overall, there are debates in Japan as to whether “Abenomics” was ultimately effective.
Abe was born to a politically powerful household. His maternal grandfather Nobusuke Kishi helped found the governing conservative Liberal Democratic Party in 1955 and led Japan from 1957 to 1960. His father, Shintaro Abe, was also a leading member of the LDP and Japan’s foreign minister from 1982 to 1986.
Plans for Abe’s funeral have not yet been announced.
ABC News’ Hakyung Kate Lee, Eunseo Nam and Hyerim Lee contributed to this report.