Japanese officials will soon begin discussing funeral arrangements for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in a daylight shooting on Friday, sending a nation unaccustomed to gun violence into a state of shock and anger.
On Saturday, the morning after the fatal shooting in a street in central Japan’s Nara, a car believed to be carrying the former world leader’s body left the Nara Medical University Hospital, where Abe had received treatment, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
His widow, Akie Abe, is traveling with her husband’s body back to Tokyo, where the family resides, before discussing funeral arrangements, Abe’s office told CNN.
In the wake of the killing, tearful mourners gathered to place flowers and kneel at a makeshift memorial outside the Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, close to where Abe was assassinated.
That a former prime minster could be shot dead at close range while giving a speech in broad daylight in a country with one of the world’s lowest rates of gun crime has reverberated around Japan and the world. Presidents, prime ministers and other international leaders sent tributes expressing outrage and sadness over the killing.
Abe, 67, was pronounced dead at at 5:03 p.m. local time on Friday, just over five hours after being shot while delivering a campaign speech in front of a small crowd on a street.
At the time of the shooting, Abe was speaking in support of ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidates ahead of Upper House elections on Sunday, which are still scheduled to go ahead. Despite resigning as Japan’s prime minister in 2020 due to health reasons, Abe remained an influential figure in the country’s political landscape and continued to campaign for the LDP.
Japan’s “JFK moment”: Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister who defined the country’s politics for a generation.
He will be remembered for boosting defense spending, pushing through the most dramatic shift in Japanese military policy in 70 years, and his grand experiment designed to jolt Japan’s economy out of decades of stagnation, known as “Abenomics.”
Tomohiko Taniguchi, a former special adviser to Abe, said the former prime minister was “one of the most transformative leaders” of Japan and described his killing as the equivalent to the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.
“I think it’s going to be an equivalent of JFK’s assassination day … It’s been a day of sadness, grief, disbelief, and for me, tremendous anger. People are finding it very much hard to digest the reality,” Taniguchi said on Friday.
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