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BREAKING NEWS - Shinzo Abe gunned down during election run, critical condition

Shinzo Abe, Japan's former leader, is in "severe condition" Friday after being shot during a campaign speech in western Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters, a shocking attack in a country that has some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.

Local fire department official Makoto Morimoto said Abe was in cardio and pulmonary arrest after being shot. His heart stopped while he was being airlifted to a hospital, Morimoto said. 

In a news conference Friday, Kishida said he hopes Abe will survive and that doctors are working to save his life.

“Currently, doctors are doing everything they can at this moment. I am hoping and praying that Former Prime Minister Abe will survive this,” Kishida said. 

Police arrested a male suspect at the scene of the shooting in Nara, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters. According to NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. 

Ministry of Defense officials said Yamagami worked for the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years until around 2005, NHK reported. The suspect said he was dissatisfied with and aimed to kill Abe in a police statement, NHK said, citing police authorities. 

The shooting was "barbaric, and malicious, and it cannot be tolerated," Kishida said. "We will do everything we can. I would like to use the most extreme words available to condemn this act."

One of Abe's major domestic successes has been his successful bid to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but that success was tarnished by the coronavirus pandemic that forced its postponement to 2021. 

His ultra-nationalism riled the Koreas and China, and his push to normalize Japan’s defense posture angered many Japanese. Abe failed to achieve his cherished goal of formally rewriting the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution because of poor public support.

Following his resignation, Abe remained an influential political figure in his Liberal Democratic Party. He was campaigning for the party when he was shot Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply saddened and deeply concerned” about the shooting, multiple outlets reported, adding that he did not know Abe's condition.

Former President Donald Trump said it was "absolutely devastating news." He said on his social media app, Truth Social, that Abe "was a true friend of mine and, much more importantly, America. This is a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much. We are all praying for Shinzo and his beautiful family!"

Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said "we are all saddened and shocked" by the shooting.

 "Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the U.S. The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, & people of Japan," he wrote in a tweet. 

Source: USA Today

Written by The Levant