The suspected assassin of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who shot and killed Abe during a campaign speech Friday, allegedly told law enforcement officials he held no “political grudge” against Abe, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported, citing unnamed “investigative sources.”
“The fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not appear to have been politically motivated, investigative sources said,” according to the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun.
“Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, was quoted as telling investigators, ‘It was not because I held a political grudge toward Abe,'” the newspaper reported July 8.
Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was fatally shot from behind and killed on the morning of July 8 while delivering a stump speech for Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the city of Nara two days before a national election. Abe, 67, stood in a street in front of the Kintetsu Railway’s Yamato-Saidaiji Station during his address and was closely surrounded by hundreds of spectators. Abe’s suspected murderer, Yamagami, was captured on video standing approximately five to ten meters behind Abe moments before he shot the politician with what appeared to be a homemade gun. Police officers tackled and arrested Yamagami moments after the assassination.
Echoing the Asahi Shimbun on Friday, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency quoted members of the Nara prefectural police as saying that Yamagami’s motive for fatally shooting Abe was unrelated to a political “grudge.”
“It’s not a grudge against the political beliefs of former Prime Minister Abe,” an unnamed Nara prefectural police official said.
“The police said Yamagami, who came to the venue of the speech by train carrying a fabric bag, has confessed that he committed the crime as he has a grudge against a ‘specific organization’ in the belief that it is linked with Abe. They said the gun used was about 40 centimeters in length and 20 cm in height,” Kyodo News revealed.
This detail is supported by a separate report from Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper Friday. Yamagami allegedly told police he intended to target a “senior official” of an unspecified “religious group” during Abe’s speech but this person was ultimately not present at the event, the publication revealed, citing “sources close to the case.”
“Yamagami […] has admitted to the allegations against him, according to the sources,” the Mainichi Shimbun relayed.
“During questioning, the suspect cited the name of a specific religious group and said, ‘I intended to target this senior official (of the group).’ The named official, however, was reportedly not at the scene at the time,” according to the newspaper, which did not name the group.
“At the same time, the suspect has made nonsensical statements, and Nara Prefectural Police are carefully investigating whether he is mentally competent to be held criminally responsible,” the Mainichi Shimbun additionally noted.
Nara’s prefectural police department told Kyodo News they searched Yamagami’s residence in Nara shortly after apprehending him Friday morning and “found items that could be explosives and homemade guns.” The Asahi Shimbun reported that police additionally searched a second home in Nara where a relative of Yamagami is believed to reside.
“Yamagami, now unemployed, was working at a manufacturer in the Kansai region covering Osaka, Nara and Kyoto from around the autumn of 2020, but he quit in May this year,” Kyodo News reported, citing a staffing agency employee.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said Friday that “a person with the same name and of the same age as Yamagami served as a member of the [Japanese] Maritime Self-Defense Force [MSDF] for three years to 2005,” according to the Asahi Shimbun.
“He learned how to shoot and assemble and disassemble rifles during his limited term in the MSDF,” the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.
NHK published details of Yamagami’s suspected military history on July 8, writing:
He received the necessary education from the Sasebo Education Corps in Nagasaki Prefecture until December 2002, and for the next two years he was a crew member of the escort ship “Matsuyuki” based in Kure Base in Hiroshima Prefecture.
He joined the 1st Service School in Etajima City, Hiroshima Prefecture from April 2004, and retired in August 2005. Also, this person was a “fixed-term self-defense official” with a predetermined term. The “fixed-term SDF” is a self-defense official who has a term of about three years in the case of the Maritime Self-Defense Force after a three-month education period
NHK additionally revealed Friday that police evacuated neighbors of Yamagami’s Nara residence after suspecting that possible explosives found at the condominium could pose an immediate threat to the surrounding area.
“Police have been searching the suspect’s home condominium since 5 pm and have seized several suspected handmade guns similar to those used in the case so far. Police are calling on local residents to evacuate because of the risk of an outburst, and are carrying out work in a vehicle to dispose of explosives,” the public broadcaster reported.