Japan PM unharmed after ‘smoke bomb’ at campaign event

Crowd at fishing harbour in western Japan scattered in panic after explosion as police subdued a man at the scene.

A man dressed in black and with a face mask lying face down on the ground. He is being held down by police officers but is looking up
Police subdued a man after the incident at a campaign event in western Japan [Kyodo via Reuters]

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was evacuated unharmed after what appeared to be a smoke bomb was thrown at him while he was on the campaign trail in Wakayama prefecture in western Japan.

Footage on Japanese television showed a disturbance in a crowd gathered at the Saikazaki fishing harbour where Kishida was out in support of a ruling party candidate. The video showed a a blast and white smoke, just as he was about to speak.

The prime minister took cover as people in the crowd scattered in panic. Kishida was unhurt and police subdued a man who looked to be in his 20s or 30s at the scene, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Saikazaki is about 65km (40 miles) southwest of Osaka city.

“I was stunned. My heart is still beating fast,” a woman at the scene told NHK.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the incident, with local police declining to comment.

The incident comes just nine months after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated last July while campaigning for a parliamentary election, shocking the nation and leading to the resignation of top local and national police chiefs as well as a tightening of security guidelines for prominent people.

The latest attack also comes as Japan hosts a series of Group of Seven (G7) ministerial meetings this weekend ahead of the May 19-21 summit that Kishida will host in the southern city of Hiroshima.

The prime minister had just finished sampling fish at the site and was about to deliver remarks in support of the ruling party’s candidate in local polls and a lower house by-election that are set for April 23.

“That something like this happened in the middle of an election campaign that constitutes the foundation of democracy is regrettable. It’s an unforgivable atrocity,” Hiroshi Moriyama, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s election strategy chairman, told NHK.

Abe’s alleged assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, reportedly targeted him over his links to the Unification Church and the incident sparked revelations about the connection between the group and Japanese politicians.

Yamagami has been charged with murder and several other crimes including violation of a gun control law.

Abe was relatively unprotected and speaking on a street in western Nara when he was killed.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies