Tokyo: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was unharmed after a blast and white smoke filled the air during a campaign speech Saturday, according to local media.
The event in Wakayama occurred less than a year after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated, which devastated the country and required a security shake-up for public figures. Kishida had just completed sampling fish at a port when a disturbance ran through the gathering gathered to hear him speak.
NHK footage showed the prime minister turning to look back as a person was seized by security and bystanders moved away, some shrieking. A blast was heard seconds later, and white smoke covered the air. According to NHK, a guy was arrested at the site on suspicion of obstructing commerce.
Local police declined to comment on the incident, thus there was no quick official confirmation. People on the scene recalled frantic moments. “I ran frantically, and then, about 10 seconds later, there was a loud noise, and my child began crying.” “I was stunned, and my heart is still racing,” said one woman to NHK.
According to a witness, “when we all stopped in front of the podium, someone started saying ‘culprit!’ or something, or ‘an explosive was thrown,’ so everyone started dispersing fast.” “And then, about 10 seconds after the perpetrator was apprehended, there was a blast,” he explained.
According to reports, Kishida was unharmed and might still participate at campaign events later in the day.
“It is regrettable that something like this occurred in the midst of an election campaign that serves as the foundation of democracy.” It’s an unspeakable atrocity,” Hiroshi Moriyama, the election strategy head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said NHK.
In a country with little violent crime and tight gun regulations, security at local campaign events in Japan can be relatively relaxed. However, following the assassination of Abe, who was shot and died while speaking at a campaign rally in July 2022, the country increased security around lawmakers. His claimed assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, allegedly targeted him because of his ties to the Unification Church, and the tragedy generated exposes regarding the sect’s ties to Japanese government officials. Yamagami was apparently upset with the sect because his mother made big donations to the group, which caused the family to go bankrupt.
Following Abe’s assassination, the chief of Japan’s National Police Agency resigned after an inquiry revealed “shortcomings” in the former leader’s protection. The research lambasted a system in which local police were tasked with protecting visiting top officials. It was determined that sections south of Abe’s podium were not effectively guarded, allowing the shooter to approach.
“It is deemed highly probable that this incident could have been prevented,” the investigation stated. Following Abe’s death, the head of Nara’s local police department also resigned in tears. The incident occurs when the Group of Seven climate and energy ministers convene in Sapporo, Japan, and a day before the G7 foreign ministers arrive in Karuizawa, Nagano, for negotiations. The G7 leaders’ summit will be held in Hiroshima, Japan, next month.