Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dies after being shot during speech

Tributes have been paid to the former Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe, who died after he was shot during a campaign speech, as Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports

Japan's former premier Shinzo Abe - one of the nation's most powerful and influential figures - has died after he was shot while delivering a campaign speech.

Doctors confirmed his death on Friday several hours after he was airlifted to hospital fighting for his life.

Mr Abe, 67, was shot from behind minutes after he started addressing a crowd outside a train station in the western Japanese city of Nara on Friday morning.

He was not breathing and his heart stopped as he went into cardiac arrest while being airlifted to Nara Medical University Hospital, said officials.

Mr Abe was fighting for his life as he was airlifted to hospital earlier on Friday

Doctors said Mr Abe showed no vital signs upon arrival at the hospital. They tried to resuscitate him and attempted massive blood transfusions but at 5.03pm local time he passed away.

During surgery they did not find any bullets but they could be recovered later. He suffered major damage to his heart and there were two entry wounds in the base of his neck that damaged an artery, causing extensive blood loss.

NHK aired dramatic footage showing Mr Abe collapsing on the street, bleeding and holding his chest as several security guards run towards him after gunshots sound.

Shootings are virtually unheard of in Japan due to strict private ownership rules. Credit: Kyodo News via AP

Security guards are seen leaping on top of a man in a grey shirt wearing a face mask who lies face down on the pavement.

A double-barrelled device that appears to be a handmade gun is then seen on the ground.

Police confirmed they arrested Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, on suspicion of attempted murder at the scene of the shooting.

A gun was seen at the scene shortly after the shooting. Credit: NHK/AP

NHK reported that he served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years in the 2000s.

He reportedly admitted to police that he shot Mr Abe and wanted to kill him but did not reveal his motive.

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Amid a flurry of tributes, the Queen said that she - and the rest of the royal family - were “deeply saddened” by the "sudden and tragic" death of Mr Abe.

The 96-year-old monarch said she had fond memories of meeting the former Japanese prime minister and his wife during their visit to the UK six years ago.

In a message of condolence to the Emperor of Japan, shared on the official royal family twitter account, she added: “His love for Japan, and his desire to forge ever-closer bonds with the United Kingdom, were clear.”

The Duke of Cambridge also paid tribute, saying he was "deeply saddened" to learn of the death of the former PM, whom he described as "a true statesman and committed leader".

"I won’t forget the warmth and generosity he extended to me during my visit to Japan in 2015. My thoughts are with his family and the people of Japan," he wrote in a tweet.

World leaders also expressed shock and anger at the shooting - the likes of which are almost unheard of in Japan.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson described his death as "incredibly sad news".

"His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people," he tweeted."The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan tweeted that he was "deeply saddened" by the news, adding: "Make no mistake—this was an attack on democracy. A shameful act of cowardice to silence a political leader."My thoughts and prayers are with all of Japan at this immensely difficult time."

Former prime minister Tony Blair called Mr Abe “a leader and statesman of extraordinary quality and character”.

He said: “I knew him and worked with him and always had huge respect for his capability. I am shocked and saddened by his senseless murder. I send my deepest condolences to his wife Akie, with whom my wife Cherie also worked closely, and to all the people of Japan.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "shocked and deeply saddened" and said her and the Scottish Government's condolences were with Mr Abe's family and the people of Japan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national day of mourning on July 9 as "a mark of our deepest respect" to one of his "dearest friends".

"I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe. He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator," he added in a series of tweets.

"He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place."

President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the "brutal and cowardly murder" of Mr Abe "shocks the whole world".

"A wonderful person, great democrat and champion of the multilateral world order has passed away," she tweeted, along with a photo of him."I mourn with his family, his friends and all the people of Japan."

Earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed Mr Abe was in a "severe condition" and that doctors were doing everything they could to save his colleague.

He condemned the attack as "barbaric" and an "unforgiveable" attack on Japan's democracy.

“I’m praying for former prime minister Abe’s survival from the bottom of my heart," said Mr Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Mr Abe, had said.

“I use the harshest words to condemn (the act),” he added as he struggled to control his emotions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was visibly emotional as he updated broadcasters on his colleague's condition. Credit: AP

The attack has sent shockwaves across the world. Japan is considered one of the world’s safest countries with virtually no gun crime due to incredibly strict private ownership laws.

Mr Kishida said the government planned to review security, but added that Mr Abe had the highest protection.

Mr Abe, an arch-conservative and one of the country's most divisive figures, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and has held the position twice.

He stepped down in 2020 after the return of chronic stomach condition, ulcerative colitis, which he'd had since he was a teenager.

The former leader had still been influential in the governing Liberal Democratic Party and heads its largest faction, Seiwakai.

Elections for Japan's upper house, the less powerful chamber of its parliament, are on Sunday.