Japan police chief resigns over Abe assassination

Mr Itaru Nakamura's resignation represent the highest profile fallout from Mr Abe's assassination. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP, REUTERS) - The head of Japan’s National Police Agency announced his resignation on Thursday (Aug 25), taking responsibility for the shooting of former prime minister Shinzo Abe in July.

“We have decided to shake up our personnel and start afresh with our security duties, and that’s why I tendered my resignation to the National Public Safety Commission today,” Mr Itaru Nakamura told reporters.

He made the announcement at a news conference detailing the findings of an investigation into flaws in how the former prime minister was protected.

“As we scrutinised and reflected on the incident, we decided to start over and overhaul our security system... To mark our fresh start with a new security plan, it is only natural for us to build a new organisation,” said Mr Nakamura. 

Mr Abe was shot and killed on the campaign trail on July 8 in the western city of Nara.  His suspected killer was detained at the scene and is believed to have targeted Mr Abe because he thought he was linked to the Unification Church. 

Mr Abe was Japan’s best-known politician and longest-serving prime minister, but security was comparatively light as he delivered a stump speech on a street in Nara.

Local police in the area have already acknowledged “undeniable” flaws in security for Mr Abe.

The resignation by Mr Nakamura, whose agency is in charge of Japan's police, represent the highest profile fallout from Mr Abe's assassination.

Security in Nara on July 8 had been widely seen as insufficient.

Bodyguards could have saved Mr Abe by shielding him or pulled him from the line of fire in the 2½ seconds between a missed first shot and the second fatal round of gunfire, eight security experts who reviewed the footage have told Reuters.

Nara police chief Tomoaki Onizuka also resigned.

“As the chief of police with security responsibility in this prefecture, I am painfully aware of my responsibility for causing a serious situation,” he told a news conference.

Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, have acknowledged flaws in the security around Mr Abe's appearance at the election campaign event.

The first moment after a gunfire was shot while former PM Shinzo Abe was at an election campaign in Nara on July 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

The National Police Agency previously told Reuters the killing had been the result of police failing to fulfil their responsibility, adding that it had set up a team to review security and protection measures and evolve preventive steps.

The suspected assassin, arrested at the scene moments after the shooting, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation, Japanese media reported last month.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.