During election campaign appearance: Smoke bomb thrown: Japan's Prime Minister Kishida unharmed after explosion

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been brought to safety unharmed after a suspected smoke bomb exploded at a campaign event.

During election campaign appearance: Smoke bomb thrown: Japan's Prime Minister Kishida unharmed after explosion

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been brought to safety unharmed after a suspected smoke bomb exploded at a campaign event. As the Kyodo news agency and other media reported on Saturday, the smoke bomb was thrown during a speech by Kishida. The incident brought back memories of the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe less than a year ago. It also happened one day before the meeting of the foreign ministers of the G7 countries in Japan.

Kishida was delivering a speech in support of a candidate from his ruling party in Wakayama when the audience suddenly rioted. Footage broadcast by NHK showed the prime minister turning as security forces restrained a man as the crowd dispersed. Seconds later, an explosion is heard and white smoke billows out. Crime scene footage showed a silver, pipe-like object on the ground.

People at the scene described moments of panic: an eyewitness told NHK she "ran in despair." Ten seconds later a loud noise was heard. "My child started crying. I was stunned, my heart is still beating fast," said the woman.

According to government officials, a man was arrested at the scene. As the AFP news agency learned from police circles, the suspect is a 24-year-old man. The authorities initially gave no information about a possible motive.

Prime Minister Kishida was reportedly unharmed and was immediately taken to safety. A short time later, he continued his campaign tour as planned. NHK quoted him Saturday as saying the police are investigating the details.

He himself wanted to apologize for having "worried and gotten a lot of people into trouble," Kishida said, according to NHK. "There's an election going on that's important to our country and we have to work together and see it through." Kishida's party's chief election strategist, Hiroshi Moriyama, described the incident as an "unforgivable atrocity".

Security at local campaign events tends to be relatively lax in Japan, a country with low levels of violent crime and strict gun laws. But after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022, the country stepped up its security measures. Abe was shot at a campaign rally.

"The fact that an incident like this is happening at this time must be taken seriously," anti-terrorism expert Isao Itabashi of the Council for Public Policy told NHK.

On Sunday, the foreign ministers of the G7 countries will meet in the Japanese city of Karuizawa, northeast of Tokyo, including Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens). The meeting will focus on various geopolitical and security policy issues, including the relationship with China, climate protection, cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. The meeting of the heads of state and government of the G7 countries will also take place in Hiroshima in May under the Japanese presidency.

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