European Royals Extend Sympathy After Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Assassinated

The world in shocked as former Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was assassinated in public while delivering a speech on the campaign trail in the city of Nara in Japan at 11:30 in the morning. He was 67.

Abe was Japan's longest-serving Prime Minister, from 2006 to 2007, and again from 2012 to 2020. He also served as President of the Liberal Democratic Party between 2006 to 2007, and from 2012 to 2020.

He retired as Japan's Prime Minister in August 2020 for health reasons. He had been suffering from Ulcerative Colitis since 2007.

Shinzo Abe was assassinated in Japan
Former Japense PM Shinzo Abe on the day he was assassinated  ©Kyodo

On July 8, 2022, while delivering a speech in the city of Nara, he was shot twice by a 41-year-old assassin using a homemade gun. 

The alleged assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, has been identified as a former Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force officer. He shot Abe first in the neck and second in the heart.

Shinzo Abe assassin was captured
Police captured the alleged assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami ©Kyodo

The assassin was immediately captured in the crime scene including the crime weapon.

Why Abe was shot?

Nikkei Asia shared video footage on the actual scene of the assassination, showing the suspect just standing behind Shinzo Abe while he was delivering a speech. 

Shinzo Abe assassinated in Japan
Video footage shared by Nikkei Asia showed the assassin just behind Abe
Shinzo Abe assassinated in Japan

According to Nikkei AsiaAbe was standing on a low podium when he was shot. He had begun addressing a small gathering of listeners. Officials from his Liberal Democratic Party and officers from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department were also on hand.

Nikkei obtained a video capturing the moment the shots were fired. It was taken by an eyewitness who was near a building to Abe's right. 

A few minutes after Abe started speaking, along with the LDP candidate from the area, a loud sound rang out and white smoke appeared. 

Video footage shared by Nikkei Asia showed the assassin just behind Abe

As per BBC News, Yamagami admitted shooting the former Prime Minister using a homemade gun because he had a grudge against a specific organization to which Shinzo Abe was connected.

It is not clear, however, why it was Abe who was targeted by the assassin and not members of the "specific organization". The police still investigating the assassin's real motive.

Shinzo Abe suffered two bullet wounds, one in the neck and one bullet damaged his heart, according to the attending physicians, the bullet penetrated deeply into his heart. 

He was revived for four hours in the hospital before he was pronounced dead at 5:03 in the afternoon, Japanese Standard Time.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the attack: "It is barbaric and malicious and it cannot be tolerated." And "an act of brutality that happened during the elections - the very foundation of our democracy - and is absolutely unforgivable".

How Could this brutality happen in Japan?

Japan is not known for violent crimes. In fact, owning a gun in the country is extremely difficult. They have strict firearm laws, thus, shootings in the country are rare.

True enough they have Yakuza, a famed violent crime gang in the country, but this gang rarely interacted with people.

Japanese are known to be hospitable and peace-loving citizens. If you want to ask people in Asia what's the safest country to visit, they would always answer - either Singapore or Japan. 

“This kind of attack on a national figure of his stature is utterly without precedent in the country’s modern history,” writes Gearoid Reidy.

Thus, the question many have asked now is, "How could this have happened in Japan?"

The country has relaxed security, and politicians during the election period often interacted closely with people in the street, greeting and handshaking them. 

It's extremely difficult to buy a gun in Japan. Thus, the shooting came as a shock to the country that prides public safety.

The suspect told the police that he had a grudge against a "specific organization," and that he thought Abe had a link to that group.

So how did the suspect approach the former prime minister without attracting commotion from the public? 

Some videos posted on social media showed Yamagami standing near a bus stop behind Abe. When Abe began speaking, Yamagami moved toward him, then opened fire. Seconds later, officers tackled Yamagami and escorted him to a street near the bus stop.

An outpouring of Support from World Leaders and royals

World Leaders, politicians and European royals, expressed their sympathy and condolences to Shinzo Abe's family.

Queen Elizabeth II, who had met the former Japanese Prime Minister in Buckingham Palace, sent a message of sympathy following the assassination.

Queen Elizabeth II and Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe and Queen Elizabeth |

Akie and Shinzo Abe and the Queen

"My family and I were deeply saddened to hear the news of the sudden and tragic death of former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe," the monarch said in the statement released by her office at Buckingham Palace. "I have fond memories of meeting Mr. Abe and his wife during their visit to the United Kingdom in 2016. 

His 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" - Elizabeth R.

Prince William and Shinzo Abe
The Duke of Cambridge and Shinzo Abe in 2015. 
Yomiuri Shimbun/AP images

The Duke of Cambridge also posted a personal message on the Kensington Royal Twitter account: "I’m deeply saddened to learn of the death of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A true statesman and committed leader. I won’t forget the warmth and generosity he extended to me during my visit to Japan in 2015. My thoughts are with his family and the people of Japan" - W

© Dutch Royal Palace

King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands and Queen Maxima also sent a message of sympathy to the bereaved family and posted a photo with the Prime Minister and his wife.

"We  were deeply saddened to learn of the fatal attack on former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We have warm memories of our contacts with him during bilateral visits and through the UN. Our Thoughts go out to his family on this sad day" - King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima

Queen Margrethe II's letter of sympathy

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark wrote a letter to Emperor Naruhito, extending her deepest sympathy and condolences on the death of the former Prime Minister.

shinzo abe
Shinzo Abe (1954-2022) Wikimedia commons

Shinzo Abe was born in Tokyo on September 21, 1954, to a prominent political family. His father was a former Japanese Foreign Minister and his grandfather also served Japan as Prime Minister. His brother, Nobuo Kishi, is currently Japan's Minister of Defense, and also a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Although he already retired in August 2020, Abe remained the most influential figure in Japan's political scene and continued to yield power in the Liberal Democratic Party. 

He was one of the most recognizable faces in the world political scene, thus, the assassination came as a shock to the global community.

Shinzo Abe married Akie Matsuzaki, a socialite, in 1987, but they had no children after unsuccessful fertility treatments.

We are deeply saddened by the shocking death of former PM Shinzo Abe. We are extending our heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Japan in this most painful moment. 

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