Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was not injured after an attacker threw what appeared to be a smoke bomb during an outdoor speech in western Japan on Saturday.
A loud explosion shocked the gathering, and Kishida took cover while a swarm of security personnel subdued the suspect onto the ground. The Nikkei newspaper quoted local police as saying that one officer suffered minor injuries.
The prime minister was campaigning when the attack was allegedly carried out by an assailant authorities identified as a 24-year-old named Kamura.
Kishida was in the city of Wakayama to give a speech in support of a local candidate when the incident occurred. People immediately screamed and ran, though one security officer is clearly seen deflecting the thrown object away and shielding the prime minister.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan was safely evacuated Saturday from a site where he was scheduled to give a speech and shortly before an explosion was heard. Footage shows the police holding down a man, believed to be the person who set off the blast. https://t.co/IpQNdemsM9 pic.twitter.com/POhBUJ4nsm
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 15, 2023
Kishida said he is undeterred by the assault. “We are holding an important election for our country, and we must work together with all of you to see it through.” He apologized for causing concern for so many people.
His party, the Liberal Democrats, announced afterward that their planned slate of election events will go forward.
Saturday’s dramatic event came less than a year after former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated. Like Kishida, Abe was also campaigning in Western Japan. The beloved center-right politician held the longest post-WWII tenure as prime minister, from 2012 to 2020.
His alleged assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, will stand trial on murder and gun charges at an undetermined date. He has undergone months of mental exams to ascertain whether he is competent to be tried.
Abe’s murder, carried out using a homemade gun, shocked the island nation. It led to security reviews for political leaders, who are often seen in public mingling with the population.
A witness to Saturday’s attack, 35-year-old company worker Masato Kaburagi, told Reuters that security around Prime Minister Kishida appeared to be lax. He believed that the suspect was brought to the ground by a bystander who quickly responded.
Kaburagi said he never expected such an incident “so soon after what happened to Abe. He further expressed doubt that he would attend future political events after witnessing the latest incident.