World leaders stunned after 'shocking' Shinzo Abe assassination

Japan's former prime minister was shot dead during a campaign speech

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World leaders have expressed their shock at the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe was shot on Friday while giving a campaign speech on a street corner and taken to hospital by helicopter. His death was announced on Friday afternoon.

Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was arrested after the attack, police sources told local media.

Mr Yamagami had spent three years in Japan's navy, leaving the service around 2005, said reports citing the Defence Ministry.

He reportedly used a “handmade” weapon. Japan has strict gun laws that make obtaining a firearm difficult.

'Profoundly disturbing' attack

The assassination, in one of the world’s safest countries, stunned the international community and drew widespread condemnation. Iran called it an “act of terrorism” and Spain said it was a “cowardly attack”.

US President Joe Biden said he was “stunned, outraged and deeply saddened” by his friend’s murder.

“This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him,” he said as he applauded Abe's commitment to the Japanese people, democracy and US-Japanese ties.

“The longest-serving Japanese prime minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service. Even at the moment, he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy,” Mr Biden said.

He condemned the killing and said “gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities that are affected by it. The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief.”

Mr Biden's predecessor Donald Trump said the killing was “bad news for the world” and said there would “never be another” like Abe.

Writing on his social network platform Truth Social, he called Abe “a truly great man and leader” and called for justice.

“His killer was captured and will hopefully be dealt with swiftly and harshly,” Mr Trump wrote.

“Few people know what a great man and leader Shinzo Abe was, but history will teach them and be kind. He was a unifier like no other, but above all, he was a man who loved and cherished his magnificent country, Japan.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the assassination “shocking” and “profoundly disturbing”. He described Abe as a leader of great vision.

Mr Blinken made the comment at the start of a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali.

The UAE's President Sheikh Mohamed expressed his sadness at the news.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the death of our dear friend Abe Shinzo who served his nation with honour and contributed to strengthening the fruitful relations between the UAE and Japan,” Sheikh Mohamed said in posts on Twitter in English, Arabic and Japanese.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a day of national mourning on Saturday. He also shared on Twitter a picture of himself and Abe, describing him as a “dear friend” who was “always passionate about strengthening India-Japan ties”.

Russia said it was saddened by Abe's death, calling him a “patriot.”

“We are deeply saddened by the news from Japan,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, shortly after a Japanese hospital confirmed Abe had been pronounced dead. “Abe was truly a patriot of Japan.”

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter that the “brutal and cowardly murder” of Abe “shocks the world”.

“I will never understand the brutal killing of this great man,” said European Council President Charles Michel in a tweet. “Japan, Europeans mourn with you.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Incredibly sad news about Shinzo Abe. His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people.”

“The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time.”

Queen Elizabeth also expressed her condolences, recounting "fond memories" of a trip Abe and his wife took to the country in 2016.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog wrote on Twitter he was “horrified by the despicable murder” of “one of Japan’s most pre-eminent leaders in modern times”.

The Chinese embassy in Japan expressed condolences over Abe's death.

“Former Prime Minister Abe made contributions towards improving China-Japan relations during his term. We express our condolences on his death and send our sympathies to his family,” a spokesman said on the embassy's website.

South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol called the shooting an “unacceptable criminal act” and expressed his deepest sorrow and shock in a Friday afternoon statement.

“I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and the Japanese people who have lost the longest-serving prime minister and respected politician in the history of Japan’s constitution,” Mr Yoon said.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in French on Twitter: “Profoundly shocked by the heinous attack of which Shinzo Abe was the victim. My thoughts are with the family and those close to a great prime minister. France is with the Japanese people.”

Updated: July 11, 2022, 7:14 AM