Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has died after being shot on Friday, multiple reports say.

While his assassination at age 67 has yet to be officially announced, Abe was shot at about 11:30 a.m. while delivering a street speech in the western city of Nara ahead of Sunday’s upper house election.

He was rushed to a hospital in Nara Prefecture by helicopter but reportedly could not be saved. Abe reportedly had a gunshot wound and was bleeding from his neck on the right side, as well as subcutaneous bleeding in his left chest.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had told reporters that Abe was in “serious condition” and that emergency measures were being taken to save his life.

“It was a despicable and barbaric act that took place in the midst of an election, the very foundation of democracy,” Kishida said. “I condemn it in the harshest possible words.”

The Nara Prefectural Police arrested a 41-year-old man, identified as local resident Tetsuya Yamagami, at the scene. Video footage showed officers tackling the man, and what appeared to be a weapon on the pavement. Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that the suspected gunman was a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Japan has strict laws on gun ownership and shootings are rare. According to a police white paper, there were 21 arrests for the use of firearms in 2020, with 12 of them being gang-related.

Abe, who left office in 2020, was still a lower house lawmaker and leader of the biggest faction in the ruling party, making him one of the country’s most influential politicians.

Abe was born into a political family in 1954. In 2006, Abe became Japan’s youngest postwar prime minister at the age of 52. Although he resigned the following year, he returned to power in 2012 and stayed until 2020, when he stepped down again due to health issues. His second period in power lasted 2,822 days, the longest in Japan’s history.

Also Read | Ex-Japanese PM Shinzo Abe shot at while making election speech

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