Assassin Believed Shinzo Abe Was Part of Religious Group

The assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shocked the international community as the investigation into the background of his killer and possible security weaknesses that permitted the attack to occur continues.

Abe served longer than any other Japanese prime minister. He held the office from 2006-2007 and again in 2012 until he resigned in 2020 while suffering from recurring ulcerative colitis.

The assassination took place in Nara in western Japan on Friday morning as Abe was giving a speech on a public street. After being shot twice from behind, Abe went into cardiac arrest on the scene and was transported to a local hospital where his death was confirmed.

Abe was reportedly conscious and responsive immediately after the attack. By the time he arrived at the hospital, doctors reported there were no vital signs detected.

A male suspect was tackled by security immediately after the shooting and was arrested on the scene. What appeared to be a homemade firearm was confiscated from the suspect, who was identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41. He is a veteran of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, serving for three years ending in 2005.

Yamagami reportedly told police that he believed Abe was connected to a religious group that he blamed for breaking up his family and leading his mother into bankruptcy. He said that his original plan was to attack the leader of the group. Police declined to identify the religious group the assailant was describing.

A Japanese news agency quoted Yamagami as telling police, “My mother got wrapped up in a religious group and I resented it.”

Police said that they believe Yamagami spent months planning the attack and had looked into shooting Abe at other locations where he campaigned for this year’s parliamentary elections. He reportedly told police that he had no political disagreement with Abe.

Yamagami told police that he had also considered a bomb attack while he was planning the assassination. When police searched his home Friday, they found materials for building explosives and homemade firearms.

Nara police chief Tomoaki Onizuka told reporters, “It is undeniable that there were problems in the security.” He did not describe any specific security failures during his emotional press statement, but said that “the urgent matter is for us to conduct a thorough investigation to clarify what happened.”