Japan latest updates: As nation mourns, questions swirl over Abe’s safety

Credit…The Asahi Shimbun, via Reuters

A day after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead in broad daylight, a stunned nation wonders how the gunman was able to approach one of Japan’s most high-profile politicians and fire two shots at point-blank range without that security does not intervene.

On television and on social networks, there are many videos of the gunman walking unimpeded past security before pointing a large homemade pistol in the direction of Mr Abe. The first shot appeared to surprise the former leader and seconds later a second shot was fired and Mr Abe collapsed to the ground. At that point, a group of men who appeared to be his security detail tackled the shooter to the ground.

The graphic images raised questions about why the shooter was able to approach from behind the riser where Mr Abe was speaking and how after the first shot he was able to fire a second before security guards don’t stop him.

Toshio Tamogami, former chief of staff of the Japanese air force, seemed to ask the question that concerned the country.

“How did the police, protection details and other security guards not notice the criminal who approached with a gun from behind?” he wrote on Twitter.

At a Saturday press briefing in Nara, Tomoaki Onizuka, the Nara prefectural police chief, acknowledged flaws in the protection given to Mr Abe at Friday’s campaign event. “It is undeniable that there were security issues,” Mr Onizuka said.

However, the national police agency said there were no issues with Mr Abe’s safety, according to the Jiji news agency, and that there was an armed officer at the scene. Japanese security police. This protective detail is a division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and performs a similar role to the Secret Service in the United States. A spokesperson for the agency was not immediately available for comment.

The agency said the only security police officer present at the event saw the attacker but was unable to stop the shooting, according to Jiji. The local Nara Police Department said there were also officers guarding Mr Abe, although they declined to provide details on how many officers were deployed.

Danny Russel, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and a former deputy secretary of state who traveled extensively with President Barack Obama, said he was stunned by Mr Abe’s lack of protection during the shutdown. Friday campaign.

“The idea that the security police might have been there and not only allowed someone to get that close to Abe with a homemade weapon, but there were two shots within seconds of interval,” Mr. Russel said. “Why didn’t anyone interpose their body or knock Abe to the ground?”

The seemingly relaxed security around Mr Abe is a byproduct of Japan’s relative safety, where violent crime and major disturbances at political rallies are rare.

Paul Nadeau, a former private secretary and adviser to a Liberal Democrat lawmaker from 2015 to 2018, said he had attended campaign stops where Mr Abe spoke and security was not overwhelming, even s he was Prime Minister at the time. He noted that there were about six to twelve Security Police officers guarding it, but the level of security did not come close to that of a US president.

Mr. Nadeau, who is now an adjunct professor at Temple University in Japan, said he would attend party functions where Mr. Abe was present with several hundred politicians, aides and other affiliated people without going through a check. history, screening or Metal Detector.

The proximity of candidates and voters was intentional, he said, in an effort to create a sense of intimacy and a sense that the politician was approachable. Safety was rarely considered.

“It never occurred to me that you would need more security,” he said.

People coming to see the country’s current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, as he dithered over his party’s candidates on Saturday faced tighter security than usual, according to local media, which showed photos of rally attendees passing through metal detectors.

Rich Motoko and Hikari Hida contributed report.

Correction:

July 9, 2022

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced Toshio Tamogami. He is a former Japanese Air Force Chief of Staff, not the current Chief of Staff.

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