Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe assassinated in broad daylight

Malta's ambassador to Japan expresses 'shock and utter disbelief' at shooting of Abe, described as 'a great friend of Malta'

Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe

Updated at 11:43am with confirmation Maltese PM tweet

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has died after being shot at a public event in the city of Nara, local media report.

Two shots were fired at the former premier while he was giving a speech. 67-year-old Abe was said to be in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest upon admission to hospital, a term often used before a death is officially confirmed in Japan.

Local media later confirmed the death of the former premier. "Shinzo Abe died in the hospital where he was receiving medical treatment, near to the attack in Nara," a senior Liberal Democratic Party official was reported as saying by public broadcaster NHK.

Abe had been shot in the neck and chest with what has been described as a homemade firearm.

He had been giving a stump speech for a candidate in Nara when the attack happened – eyewitnesses said they saw a man carrying what they described as a large gun, who then fired at Abe from behind.

Abe immediately fell to the ground, bleeding. Security officers detained the attacker who made no attempt to run.

The suspect, identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, is believed to be in his 40s and is a resident of Nara. He is understood to be a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force.

Abe 'a great friend of Malta' - Malta's ambassador to Japan

Prime Minister Robert Abela has tweeted his condolences to Abe's family and the Japanese people, while condemning the assassination. "[I am ] saddened by the attack on Japan’s longest-serving PM Shinzo Abe. I condemn this senseless act of violence. Sincere condolences to his dear family and the people of Japan.

Speaking earlier to MaltaToday, Malta's Ambassador to Japan, André Spiteri, expressed his shock at the attack, describing Abe as "a great friend of Malta and an inspirational figure in Japanese politics," for whom he had great admiration.

"My first reaction is shock and utter disbelief that such a horrendous act can happen in Japan, which is a very safe country." 

Abe was the first Japanese Prime Minister to officially visit Malta back in May 2017 after the G7 Summit in Sicily. The first Maltese Embassy was opened in Japan in September 2020. 

"Abe really has a great respect for Malta as he was aware of the historic visit of the Crown Prince of Japan in 1921 and also the great importance Malta had for the Japanese naval squadron during WW1. In fact, he immediately went to pay his respects at the memorial for Japanese sailors at the Kalkara Naval Cemetery after landing. Relations with Japan were described as having taken ‘a quantum leap forward’ following the first summit in 2017," Spiteri said.

In 2018, he had received Joseph Muscat, then Prime Minister, in Tokyo for the second Malta – Japan Summit. "The delegation was welcomed and treated with great respect by the Abe administration and he even personally thanked Malta for helping with the evacuation of Japanese citizens from Libya back in 2011 during the press conference."