Shots were fired Friday at former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an election rally in Nara (in the west of the country), the Japanese government confirmed, and he showed no signs of life according to the local media.

“The former prime minister was shot at around 11:30 a.m. [0230 GMT] in Nara. A man suspected of being the shooter has been arrested. Mr. Abe’s medical condition is currently unknown,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

Citing law enforcement sources, state broadcaster NHK had earlier said a man in his 40s had been arrested for attempted murder and had a gun confiscated.

The 67-year-old former chief executive was delivering a speech at a campaign rally ahead of Sunday’s senatorial elections when gunshots were heard, national broadcaster NHK and news agency reported. Kyodo press.

“He was giving a speech and a man came up from behind,” a young woman at the scene told NHK. “The first shot sounded like a toy. He didn’t fall and there was a big bang. The second shot was more visible, you could see the spark and smoke,” she added. “After the second shot, people surrounded him and gave him CPR,” she testified.

Mr Abe collapsed and was bleeding from the neck, a source from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) told the Jiji news agency. Contacted by Agence France-Presse, neither the PLD nor the local police were able to confirm this information immediately.

Heart failure

Both NHK and Kyodo reported that Mr Abe was taken to hospital and appeared to be in cardio-respiratory arrest – a term used in Japan indicating no signs of life, and usually preceding an official death certificate. Several outlets reported that he appeared to have been shot from behind, likely with a rifle.

Mr. Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. He was in office in 2006 for a year, then again from 2012 to 2020, when he was forced to resign for health reasons.

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel deplored the attack. “We are all sad and shocked by the shooting attack on former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Abe-san was an outstanding leader of Japan and a staunch ally of the United States. The government and people of the United States pray for the well-being of Abe-san, his family and the people of Japan,” Emanuel said in a statement.

Japan has one of the strictest gun control laws in the world, and the annual death toll from guns in the country of 125 million people is extremely low. Obtaining a gun license is a long and complicated process, even for Japanese citizens, who must first obtain a recommendation from a shooting association and then undergo strict police checks.