All About Shinzo Abe, the Former Japanese Prime Minister Who Was Assassinated During Campaign Speech

Japan's longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, died from gunshot wounds sustained during a campaign speech in Nara, Japan, on Friday morning

Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, has died after sustaining gunshot wounds during a campaign speech in Nara, Japan, on Friday morning local time.

A spokesperson for Nara Medical University confirmed the tragic news in a press conference Friday, reported CNN.

Abe, 67, held the title of prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020, having also served as president of the Liberal Democratic Party for the latter time.

Read on to learn more about the late politician.

Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Abe comes from a family of politicians, with his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi having served as prime minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960, and held positions before that such as minister for foreign affairs and director-general of the Japan Defense Agency.

His father, Shintaro Abe, also held the title of minister of foreign affairs, from 1982 to 1986, and served as chief cabinet secretary in the late 1970s.

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Before his stints as prime minister, Abe, like his father, served as chief cabinet secretary from 2005 to 2006.

He was a longtime member of the House of Representatives from Yamaguchi, beginning in 1993 and lasting until his death.

HONOLULU, HI - DECEMBER 27: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam's Kilo Pier on December 27, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor with a U.S. president and the first to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
Shinzo Abe. Kent Nishimura/Getty

The Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe led, is a bit of a misnomer in America. A mainstream party in Japan, its political stances are wide-ranging and conservative, more closely aligning with the Republican Party in the U.S., though not a perfect comparison.

Abe was a controversial figure during his tenures, adored by conservatives and seen as misguided by liberals. His premiership was characterized by a push to bolster Japan's military, strengthen the country's relationship with the U.S. and reignite a sense of nationalism he felt was lost after the World Wars.

"He's the most towering political figure in Japan over the past couple of decades," Dave Leheny, a political scientist at Waseda University in Tokyo, told the Associated Press. "He wanted Japan to be respected on the global stage in the way that he felt was deserved. ... He also wanted Japan to not have to keep apologizing for World War II."

Abe stepped down from his prime minister post in 2020 due to his health, just four days after he set a record for the longest-running Japanese prime minister, as reported by The New York Times.

KASHIKOJIMA, JAPAN - MAY 25: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waits for British Prime Minister David Cameron (not seen) before a bilateral meeting on May 24, 2016 in Shima, Japan. The G7 summit will be held on Japan's Kashikojima Island on May 26 and 27, 2016. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Shinzo Abe. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in Tokyo, Abe was shot in the right side of his neck at around 11:30 a.m. local time Friday while speaking at a campaign rally ahead of Japan's Upper House elections on Sunday, Japan's public media organization NHK reported.

He then collapsed and was immediately rushed to Nara Medical University for treatment, the outlet said.

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CNN reported that a team of 20 medical professionals immediately began treating him. Doctors at Nara Medical University said Abe was struck by a bullet "deep enough to reach his heart" at the press conference Friday, but surgeons had found it impossible to stem the bleeding.

Police have arrested Tetsuya Yamagami in connection with the attack, NHK confirmed Friday, adding that a handmade gun was discovered at the scene.

Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the world, according to Business Insider.

Updated by
Kyler Alvord

Kyler Alvord leads PEOPLE's politics coverage as a news editor for the brand. He joined the publication in 2021 on the crime beat.

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