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Japan bids a somber farewell to the assassinated Shinzo Abe, its longest-serving prime minister

Japan bids a somber farewell to the assassinated Shinzo Abe, its longest-serving prime minister
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  • Thousands line up to pay their respects to Abe at the Temple, the party’s headquarters
  • Crowds fill the sidewalks in Tokyo, bowing and praying as the hearse drives by
  • Mourners speak of a lost sense of security, sadness
  • commemorations at a later date

TOKYO, July 12 (Reuters) – With prayers, flowers and flags draped in black ribbons, Japan on Tuesday bid farewell to Shinzo Abe, a polarizing figure who dominated politics as the country’s longest-serving prime minister before she was gunned down at a campaign rally last week .

Crowds thronged sidewalks lined with a heavy police presence as the hearse carrying Abe, who died at the age of 67, departed from a temple in central Tokyo in a procession through the city.

With nearly a dozen helicopters circling overhead, people bowed low, hands clasped in prayer, as the hearse passed in a procession broadcast live by NHK. Others clapped, cheered or waved.

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“Thank you for your commitment to our country,” a man shouted again and again.

Hundreds marched to pay their respects at the temple where Abe’s funeral was being held Monday night and Tuesday morning ahead of the private ceremony. His assassination on Friday by an unemployed man with a homemade weapon has stunned a nation where both gun crime and political violence are extremely rare. Continue reading

The funeral procession passed through the capital’s political heart, Nagatacho, where hundreds lined up in front of the Parliament building, which Abe first entered in 1993 after the death of his politician father as a young lawmaker.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and a group of cabinet ministers waited quietly outside the office from which Abe, Japan’s youngest prime minister when he took office, led the nation for two terms, the longest from 2012 to 2020, when he resigned due to health problems.

As the hearse slowly drove by, Kishida bowed his head, a set of Buddhist rosaries around his clasped hands. Abe’s widow, Akie, leaned back from the front seat of the hearse.

PAY RESPECT

From early morning, in the muggy summer air, long lines of people in black formed in front of the temple, mixed with others in informal clothes with backpacks.

Keiko Noumi, a 58-year-old teacher, was one of many who came to view a large photograph of Abe that was displayed on the temple grounds, showing him in a simple white shirt and with his hands on his hips, laughing, praying and praying to offer flowers

“There was a sense of security when he was the prime minister in charge of the country,” she said. “I really supported him, so it’s very unfortunate.”

Others lined up outside the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headquarters to make offerings at a makeshift shrine that will stand until Friday. Party employees come out to offer cold barley tea to mourners who are sweating in the muggy air.

Tributes have arrived from international leaders and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stopped briefly to pay his respects on Monday morning en route to the United States from Southeast Asia. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Taiwan Vice President William Lai also joined the mourners. Continue reading

Nearly 2,000 messages of condolence came from nations around the world, the Kyodo news agency said.

“Great Courage, Boldness”

French leader Emmanuel Macron offered his condolences in footage posted to the country’s official Twitter account after visiting the Japanese embassy in Paris.

“I remember all our meetings and collaborations, especially during my visit (to Japan) in 2019… I lost a friend,” said a solemn Macron.

“He served his country with great courage and daring.”

The suspected killer, who was arrested at the scene and identified by police as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, believed Abe had sponsored a religious group to which his mother made a “large donation,” the Kyodo news agency said, citing investigator.

The Unification Church, known for its mass weddings and devoted following, said Monday the suspect’s mother was one of its members. Reuters could not determine if the mother belonged to other religious organizations. Continue reading

Yamagami shot Abe from behind and discharged two shots from a 40 cm (16 in) improvised weapon wrapped in black duct tape. Continue reading

Cabinet chef Hirokazu Matsuno said at a news conference on Tuesday that the Japanese government will examine whether there is a need to further regulate hand-made weapons.

“We recognize that current regulations place severe restrictions on firearms, whether hand-made or not,” he said.

Satoshi Ninoyu, head of the National Public Safety Commission, said at a news conference on Tuesday that he had ordered the establishment of a team to investigate the security situation surrounding Abe’s killing.

“We take this incident very seriously,” he said.

A farewell ceremony is to be held in the Abes constituency in southwest Yamaguchi Prefecture and in Tokyo, according to the Mainichi newspaper.

Japanese mourning continued on the streets of the capital.

“He was my favorite prime minister,” said Akihito Sakaki, 58 and self-employed. “So I came here to say goodbye.”

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Additional reporting by Akiko Okamoto, Kohei Miyazaki, Yoshifumi Takemoto, Ju-min Park, Mariko Katsumura, Sakura Murakami, and Chang-Ran Kim; writing by Elaine Lies; Edited by Kenneth Maxwell

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