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‘NO SENSE OF DANGER’: The 2.5 seconds that sealed Shinzo Abe’s fate

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NARA — Bodyguards could have saved Shinzo Abe if they had shielded or removed him from the line of fire in the 2.5 seconds between the first shot that missed and the second shot that fatally wounded him, according to eight security experts who reviewed footage of the shooting. the assassination of a former Japanese leader.

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The failure to protect Abe from a second shot followed what appeared to be a series of security lapses in the lead-up to the July 8 assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Japanese and international experts said.

Abe’s killing in the western city of Nara by a man who used a homemade gun shocked a nation where gun violence is rare and politicians campaign close to the public with light security.

Japanese authorities – including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – have acknowledged the security lapses, and police say they are investigating.

In ition to security experts, Reuters spoke to six witnesses at the scene and examined several videos available online, taken from different angles, to piece together a detailed account of the security measures taken before his shooting.

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After leaving Abe, 67, exposed from behind as he spoke at a traffic island on a public road, his security details allowed the gunman — identified by police as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41 — to get within meters of Abe without checking his weapon. , the footage showed.

“They should have seen the attacker walking very deliberately behind the prime minister and intervened,” said Kenneth Bombace, head of Global Threat Solutions, which provided security for Joe Biden when he was a presidential candidate.

Yamagami came to within about 7 meters of Abe before firing his first shot, which missed, the Yomiuri daily reported, citing investigative sources. He fired a second shot that hit at a distance of about 5 meters.

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Abe’s bodyguards don’t appear to have “concentric security rings” around him, said John Soltys, a former Navy SEAL and CIA officer who is now vice president of the security firm Prosegur. “They didn’t have any kind of supervision in the crowd.

Asked about the analysis by experts, the Nara Prefectural Police, which is in charge of security to stop Abe’s campaign, told Reuters in a statement that the department was “committed to thoroughly identifying security issues” with Abe’s protection, declining to comment further.

Video footage showed Abe turning and looking over his left shoulder after the first shot. Two bodyguards scramble to get between him and the gunman, one of them lifting a slim black bag. Two more head towards the gunman who is approaching in the smoke.

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Although Abe’s bodyguards intervened and arrested the attacker moments later, it was a “bad reaction” for some of the bodyguards to go after the gunman instead of moving to protect Abe, said Mitsuru Fukuda, a Nihon University professor specializing in crisis management and terrorism . .

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Security was adequate, “but no sense of danger,” said Yasuhiro Sasaki, a former police officer in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo who handled VIP security. “Everyone was surprised and no one went to where Abe was.

Tokyo police, which are in charge of bodyguards for VIP politicians, have referred inquiries to police in Nara.

The National Police Agency, which oversees local police forces, said Abe’s killing was the result of police failing to fulfill their responsibilities and said it had formed a team to review security and protection measures and consider concrete steps to prevent such a serious incident . from recurring.

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“We recognize that there were issues not only in the on-site response, such as safety and security setup, staff deployment and basic security procedures, but also in the way the National Police Agency was involved,” it said in a statement. answers to questions from Reuters.

Reuters was unable to reach Yamagami, who remains in police custody, for comment and could not determine whether he has a lawyer.

‘AVOIDABLE’

The footage shows four bodyguards inside the railing as Abe spoke, according to Koichi Ito, a former sergeant with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s special assault team, now a security consultant. Their number was confirmed by local politician Masahiro Okuni, who was at the scene of the crime.

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Yamagami could be seen applauding in the background video as the former prime minister stepped forward to speak.

When Yamagami went to see Abe, security did not appear to take any action, the footage showed.

Abe should have had a dedicated bodyguard to escort him away, said a member of the US Diplomatic Security Service, which protects senior diplomats and foreign dignitaries.

“We’d grab him by the belt and collar, protect him with our body and walk away,” the agent said.

Katsuhiko Ikeda, a former Tokyo police superintendent who oversaw security at Japan’s Group of Eight summits in 2000 and 2008, said the situation would have turned out very differently if Abe’s security detail had been close enough to reach him within a second or two .

Ito, a former police sergeant, said security guards could have stopped the first shot if they had been alert and communicated.

“Even if they missed it, there was more than a two-second window before the second shot, so they definitely could have prevented it,” he said. “If Abe had been properly protected, this could have been avoided.

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