Human Interest

Japan pays tribute to Shinzo Abe after ‘shocking’ assassination

(Update: adds details, changes headline)

By Edurne Morillo

Tokyo, Jul 11 (EFE).- Hundreds of people, including relatives and colleagues of former Japanese prime minster Shinzo Abe gathered Monday at Tokyo’s Zojo-ji Buddhist temple to pay their respects following his assassination last week.

Abe, Japan’s longest serving prime minister, died on Friday last week after being shot while addressing an election rally in the western city of Nara.

“I was very surprised with the news and also with the sympathy he received from abroad after his death,” Yuji Tsutsumi, a Tokyo resident who came to the temple to sign a book of condolences for Abe, told Efe.

The former prime minister was giving a stump speech ahead of Sunday’s Upper House election, which was swept by his party, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Tetsuya Yamagami, a former member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, was arrested immediately after allegedly shooting Abe.

Although his motive remains unclear, evidence gathered by the authorities suggests that the suspect had been planning an attack on the prominent Japanese politician for some time.

Police found several homemade weapons similar to the shotgun he used to shoot Abe at his home in Nara. They also found explosives which has led them to believe that Yamagami was trying to make a bomb.

Once Abe began his speech, Yamagami approached him slowly from behind and allegedly shot at him twice from the gun he was carrying in a bag.

Abe was rushed to a hospital in Nara with injuries to his chest and neck that caused him to go into cardio-respiratory arrest. He died about five-and-a-half hours after the incident from bleeding caused by injuries to his arteries and heart, according to medical services.

“I was very shocked to find out what had happened and doubted whether it could be true,” a young woman from Tokyo, who preferred to remain anonymous, said.

Hundreds of residents of the Japanese capital came to the temple carrying lotus flowers, which in Buddhist symbolism represent purity of the body, speech and mind as well as rebirth.

“I am very sad and it is hard to believe that such an incident would happen in our country,” Funato, a Tokyo resident who has also come to the Buddhist temple to pay his respects, said.

The Japanese government announced Monday it will posthumously award Abe with the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, the nation’s highest honor.

The decoration honors the many years of Abe’s professional achievements, including diplomacy and economic security policies, and improved relations with the United States, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference.

Earlier Monday, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida received US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who traveled to Tokyo to personally convey his condolences for the assassination of Abe.

“In his time in office, prime minister Abe did more than anyone to elevate the relationship between the United States and Japan to new heights. We will do anything we can to help our friends in carrying the burden of this loss,” the head of US diplomacy said after the meeting, according to public broadcaster NHK. EFE


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