A top police official on Saturday acknowledged possible security lapses that allowed an assassin to fire his gun into former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while he was addressing a campaign rally, raising questions how could the attacker get so close behind him.
Abe was shot in the western city of Nara on Friday and airlifted to a hospital but died of blood loss. Police arrested the attacker, a former member of Japan’s navy, at the scene. Police confiscated his homemade gun and several others were later found at his apartment.
The attacker, Tetsuya Yamagami, told investigators he acted because he believed rumors that Abe was connected to an organization that he resents, police said. Japanese media reported that the man had developed hatred toward a religious group that his mother was obsessed about and that caused his family financial problems. The reports did not specify the group.
Abe’s assassination ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election shocked the nation and raised questions over whether security for the former prime minister was adequate.
Some observers who watched videos of the attack noted a lack of attention in the open space behind Abe as he spoke.
Experts also said Abe was more vulnerable standing on the ground level, instead of atop a campaign vehicle, which is usually the case but was reportedly unavailable due to his hastily arranged visit to Nara.
Abe’s assassination could prompt stricter security at crowded events like campaigns, sports games and others.
During a parliamentary debate in 2015, Abe resisted suggestions by an opposition lawmaker to beef up his security, insisting that “Japan is a safe country.” Japan is particularly known for its strict gun laws. With a population of 125 million, it had only 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, eight of then gang-related.
Police on Saturday said autopsy results showed that a bullet that entered Abe’s upper left arm damaged arteries beneath both collar bones, causing fatal massive bleeding.
Yosuke Mizuno/Kyodo News via APA photo of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is displayed on a makeshift memorial near the scene where Abe was fatally shot while delivering his speech to support a Liberal Democratic Party’s candidate on Friday, in Nara, Saturday, July 9, 2022. (Yosuke Mizuno/Kyodo News via AP)