West News Wire: When what seemed to be a smoke bomb was thrown at the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida when he was campaigning in the western prefecture of Wakayama, he was uninjured and was taken to the hospital.
Japanese television footage depicted an altercation in a crowd assembled at the Saikazaki fishing harbour where Kishida was campaigning for a candidate of the ruling party. Just as he was going to speak, a blast and white smoke could be seen on the footage.
As the throng dispersed in fear, the prime minister took cover. According to public broadcaster NHK, Kishida was unharmed and police apprehended a man who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s at the site.
About 65 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Osaka City is Saikazaki.
“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.