A man has admitted to murdering former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, police said.

Mr Abe, 67, was shot twice in the back while delivering a speech at a campaign rally in the western city of Nara.

He bled to death after sustaining two deep neck wounds that damaged an artery.

It is the first assassination of a current or former Japanese prime minister since the 1930s.

Named in the media as 41-year-old Yamagami Tetsuya, the shooter appeared emotionless as he spoke to investigators and calmly answered questions.

Context of Abe’s alleged killer emerges – live updates

Explosives were found at the home of the unemployed suspect and officers are advising nearby residents to evacuate.

Footage from the scene shows what appears to be a homemade firearm. It was made of a mix of materials, including metal and wood, police said.

It is still unclear whether the parts were purchased on the Internet and whether they were made on a 3D printer.

An isolated image on video appears to show him moments before the shooting.

Dressed in a gray T-shirt and beige pants, he was tackled to the ground by the police.

He told investigators he spent three years working for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

According to state broadcaster NHK, he told police he was unhappy with Mr Abe and intended to kill him.

But Kyodo News said it was not motivated by a grudge against Mr Abe’s political beliefs.

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Man suspected of shooting Shinzo Abe arrested

Major heart damage

Mr Abe had no vital signs when he arrived at Nara Medical University Hospital and was never revived after suffering severe heart damage.

More than 100 units of blood were administered during four hours of blood transfusions as Mr Abe haemorrhaged.

Mr Abe clutched his chest as he collapsed, his shirt stained with blood. NHK showed footage of security guards running towards him.

A puff of white smoke was seen as he delivered a campaign speech outside a train station ahead of Japan’s upper house elections on Sunday.

A reporter at the scene said he heard two consecutive bangs during Mr Abe’s speech.

This image appears to show the suspect in the background as Mr Abe arrived for his speech
Image:
This image appears to show the suspect in the background as Shinzo Abe arrived for his speech

Fumio Kishida, the prime minister, said the “act of brutality” was “absolutely unforgivable”. He asked all cabinet members to return to Tokyo.

Mr Kishida said a free and fair election is something that must be fought for at all costs, and the campaign will continue on Saturday.

Mr Kishida said he had great respect for Mr Abe’s legacy.

“Absolutely unforgivable, for whatever reason”

Political violence is rare in Japan, which has strict gun regulations.

In a country of 125 million people, there were just 10 gun-related criminal cases last year, resulting in one death and four injuries, police say.

The majority of those cases – eight – were gang-related.

“A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, regardless of the reasons, and we strongly condemn it,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pictured in Tokyo in December 2020
Image:
Shinzo Abe pictured in Tokyo in December 2020

Boris Johnson, the outgoing Prime Minister, said Mr Abe’s death was “incredibly sad news”.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said Mr Abe was “a wonderful person, a great democrat and a champion of the multilateral world order”.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine, said “the heinous act of violence has no excuse”.

Mr Abe served two terms as prime minister – becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister – before stepping down in 2020, saying a chronic health condition had resurfaced.

He has suffered from ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager.

He remained a dominant presence within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, controlling one of its major factions.

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