Speaking ahead of news of Abe’s death, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the shooting in the “strongest terms”, while the Japanese people and world leaders expressed their shock at the violence in a country where political violence is rare and firearms tightly controlled.
“This attack is an act of brutality that occurred during elections – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable,” Kishida said, struggling to keep his emotions in check.
A fire official said Abe appeared to be in cardiac arrest when he was airlifted to hospital.
Police said a 41-year-old man suspected of carrying out the shooting has been arrested. NHK quoted the suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, as telling police he was unhappy with Abe and wanted to kill him.
Abe was giving a campaign speech outside a train station when two shots rang out around 11:30 a.m. (02:30 GMT). Security guards were then seen tackling a man dressed in a gray t-shirt and beige pants.
“There was a loud bang followed by smoke,” businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was at the scene, told Reuters, adding the weapon was the size of a television camera.
“The first shot, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special police tackled him.”