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Shinzo Abe: Suspect admits killing ex-PM over 'rumours', say Japanese police

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Police in Japan have said the suspect in the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was arrested at the scene in the western city of Nara and has admitted to the attack.

41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami told investigators he had plotted to kill him because he believed rumours about the former leader's connection to a certain organisation that police did not identify — according to Kazuhisa Yamamura, the Head of First Investigation Division, Nara Prefecture Police.

Local media, citing police sources, said Yamagami told police he believed Abe was linked to a religious group he blamed for ruining his mother financially and breaking up the family.

"He (Yamagami) confessed that he had some resentment against a certain organisation and was under the impression of the former prime minister having some connection to it, which led to the act. I would like to avoid further details," Yamamura told a news conference.

Abe was assassinated Friday on a street by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech at a rally — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.

Police said Yamagami used a gun that was obviously homemade — about 40 centimetres long — and they confiscated similar weapons and his personal computer when they raided his nearby one-room apartment. A 90-member strong task force had been launched to investigate the shooting.

Campaigning resumed on the final day of electioneering before polling for the upper house of parliament, which is expected to deliver victory to the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, an Abe protege.

Kishida has been back on the campaign trail visiting regional constituencies after making an emergency return to Tokyo on Friday in the wake of the shooting.

Residents line streets of Tokyo

Early on Saturday, a hearse carrying former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's body left the hospital in Nara. Abe's wife, Akie, lowered her head as the vehicle passed by a crowd of journalists.

The former leader's body has since arrived in Tokyo where residents lined the streets to pay their respects.

"He had contributed and he could have contributed so much more to the country. This will be a great loss for Japan," said Narikawa, giving his family name only.

"It is unbelievable to see an attack like this in very safe Japan. It is unbelievable that somebody was walking around with a gun like that," said Tokyo resident Satoshi Nishikawa.

A steady stream of mourners visited the scene of the assassination in Nara on Saturday. Over 100 people queued to lay flowers at midday at a table featuring a photo of Abe giving a speech, with more arriving.

A night vigil will be held on Monday, with Abe's funeral to take place on Tuesday, attended by close friends, Japanese media said. There was no immediate word on any public memorial service.

Biden and Borrell join tributes

Tributes and condolences have been pouring in from around the world for Japan's longest serving leader. India and Nepal have announced one-day national mourning as mark of respect.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Indonesia Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, offered his sympathies.

"We are all shocked. Abe was the most long standing minister of Japan, a good friend of Europe. He contributed a lot to the friendship between Japan and the European Union, and to the world's progress and stability," he said.

US President Joe Biden called the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kidhida to express his outrage and sadness. He also visited the Japanese ambassador, and signed the condolence book before making this statement.

"I like to say just a very few words about the horrific, shocking killing of my friend Japanese Prime Minister Abe," Biden said. "I'm keeping his wife and family in my prayers and the United States standing in solidarity with our ally, Japan."

The United Nations Security Council held a minute of silence for the assassinated former leader, and for Angola's former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos who died on Friday after a prolonged illness.

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