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Japan smoke bomb sparks memories of slain PM

2023-06-11 02:36:42 source:The Washington Post author:Press center3 click:619order

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is safe.

After the smoke bomb attack that happened as he was about to give a speech on the local elections campaign trail, he simply moved on to his next engagement.

But this is still shocking.

One: because Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and has very strict gun controls.

Two - perhaps more crucially - because this smoke bomb attack happened less than a year after Shinzo Abe, Mr Kishida's predecessor, was assassinated - also while giving a speech among a crowd on a campaign trail.

There are major differences - unlike Mr Abe, Mr Kishida was evacuated very quickly and the assailant tackled quite promptly.

One video showed a shield being used around Mr Kishida the moment the young man was pinned to the ground.

However a number of people on social media pointed out that the very first person to tackle the attacker was actually a fisherman who was among the crowd and next to the assailant.

There are uneasy parallels between what happened today in a port in Wakayama in western Japan and what happened last year in the western city of Nara when Mr Abe was fatally shot.

In the latest attack, the assailant appeared to be in the middle of the crowd as he threw the suspected smoke bomb. Videos show him holding an unidentified metal object.

In July last year, Mr Abe's killer, Tetsuya Yamagami, stood very closely behind him as he was speaking at a political event - he then shot him with a homemade gun.

Last year's assassination shocked Japan, led to a national outcry and an investigation that found holes in Mr Abe's security and that he was not evacuated quickly enough.

Fast forward a few months, his successor had to be rushed out of a scene where a loud explosion sent frightened bystanders scrambling for cover.

The motivation for this smoke bomb attack is still unclear, but it's bound to raise questions about whether the Abe assassination could have inspired a copycat event.

Election campaigns in Japan, whether local or national, are very up-close and personal. Political leaders like to be near the crowds, shaking hands and talking to people.

This poses security risks - although given how rare violent attacks are in Japan, there has always been a relatively relaxed attitude towards these events.

But not any more.

Mitsuru Fukuda, professor of emergency and crisis risk management at Nihon University, told Kyodo news agency that the location for Mr Kishida's speech was poorly chosen and there should have been a greater distance between him and the audience.

Shinzo Abe's assassination led to the resignation of top local and national police chiefs.

Since then, there's been heightened security around politicians - but also a heightened sense of nervousness.

As more details about today's attack emerge, questions will be asked about why the country's prime minister was in such a vulnerable spot - only a few months after his predecessor was assassinated.

author:Press center3
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