Police probe into Abe’s security breach begins as Japan mourns

TOKYO (AP) — Officials from Japan’s top law enforcement agency began their investigation into security breaches blamed on the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a week ago Friday in western Japan , where people brought flowers to pray for the influential but divisive former leader.

Mourners carrying bouquets lined up to lay flowers and pray at a table outside a train station in Nara, western Japan, on Friday. Some observed a minute’s silence late in the morning around the same time the suspect fatally shot the country’s longest-serving prime minister.whose ultra-conservative stances on security and war history have divided opinions inside and outside Japan.

A team of National Police Agency investigators inspected the scene of the shooting on Friday, a day after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida accused “problems with security measures” for Abe’s death.

Photos and videos of the shooting show the suspected shooter was able to approach Abe from behind, while security guards were concentrated in front.

Tomoaki Onizuka, chief of the Nara Prefectural Police Headquarters, also prayed for Abe on Friday and inspected several bullets that had penetrated the wall of a nearby building, apparently after narrowly missing the former chief or anyone else. in the area, officials said. Onizuka said the security issues during the attack were “undeniable”.

The alleged shooter, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was arrested immediately after the shooting and is being held for questioning for up to three weeks while prosecutors decide whether to bring murder charges.

Police said the suspect told investigators he killed Abe due to rumors of the former prime minister’s ties to “a religious organization”, which media outlets identified as the Unification Church. The suspect was reportedly upset because his mother allegedly gave some 100 million yen ($720,500) in donations to the religious group, putting their family out of business.

Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso, a former diplomat and parliamentarian, told reporters on Friday that the link between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Churchwhich is known to collect large donations which are used to influence the vote and national policies, should be investigated.

The suspect’s troubled past and more chilling details of his preparations in the days leading up to the assassination have emerged.

Japanese media on Friday quoted Yamagami’s unnamed uncle as saying the suspect’s mother joined the church in 1991, several years after her husband’s death. When his mother filed for bankruptcy in 2002, putting the suspect’s siblings in financial difficulty, Yamagami attempted to kill herself to obtain life insurance to help them, the uncle said. He also said that Yamagami’s mother was devastated by her son’s alleged crime.

Police said Yamagami, who was a member of the Self-Defense Forces from 2002 to 2005, tested a weapon before the attack on several targets in the Nara Mountains, apparently to examine their effectiveness.

Investigators found a concrete block, a wooden panel and a metal container with bullet holes and what they believe to be bullets strewn around the area.

Police said the suspect was seen near the location of Abe’s speech in another city the day before the attack. Earlier in the day, the suspect fired his weapon at a building linked to the church.

The Asahi newspaper reported on Friday that Yamagami plotted a Molotov cocktail attack on church leader Hak Ja Han Moon during his 2019 visit to central Japan, but was unable to gain access to the location of the large gathering. The suspect reportedly changed his target to Abe after pandemic-related border restrictions, believing it would be difficult for Han Moon, who is Korean, to travel to Japan.

Abe’s ruling party and junior coalition partner Komeito landed a landslide election victoryhelped in part by sympathy votes for Abe.

A more modest funeral was held at a temple in Tokyo on Tuesday. Kishida announced plans Thursday to hold a state ceremony for Abe in the fall.

Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii opposed the plan on Friday, saying in a statement: ‘The state funeral will mean full government endorsement of Mr Abe’s political views, which are in fact widely divided. among the public, and praise and glorify his policy. ”

The use of tax money for a state funeral for the division leader has also drawn mixed reactions from other opposition leaders.

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