Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gravely injured in shooting

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and gravely injured while campaigning Friday in southern Japan, officials said.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was giving a speech in the city of Nara when gunfire was heard around 11:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. Thursday ET).

Public broadcaster NHK, citing the local fire department, reported that Abe was in a state of “cardiopulmonary arrest,” suggesting that he had no pulse.

It said he had been admitted to Nara Medical University Hospital.

In brief on-camera remarks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Abe’s condition remained “unknown” and that one person had been apprehended in relation to the shooting.

“Such a barbaric act is utterly unacceptable, and we categorically condemn it,” he said. Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and government ministers traveling in various parts of the country would return to Tokyo immediately, he added.

Elections for the upper house of the Japanese Parliament are Sunday. Abe, 67, who stepped down in 2020, was campaigning for other members of the governing conservative Liberal Democratic Party but is not a candidate himself.

The incident sent shockwaves through Japan, where gun violence is extremely rare. Handguns are banned in the country and people must undergo extensive tests, training and background checks to obtain and keep shotguns and air rifles.

The U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, said that he was shocked and saddened by news of the shooting.

“Abe-san has been an outstanding leader of Japan and unwavering ally of the United States,” Emanuel said in a statement Friday. “The U.S. Government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and people of Japan.”

Abe hails from Japan’s political elite and as prime minister had made reviving economic growth through his “Abenomics” policies a key pillar of his time in office.