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Abe killer held a grudge, used homemade gun

The man accused of murdering Shinzo Abe believed the former Japanese leader had ties to a religious group he blamed for his mother’s financial ruin.

Tetsuya Yamagami, an unemployed 41-year-old, was identified Friday as a suspect on suspicion of murder.

Videos repeatedly shown on Japanese television showed a man approaching and firing Japan’s longest-serving prime minister from behind.

The suspect, wiry and bespectacled with shaggy hair, stepped up the road behind Abe, who was standing on a platform at an intersection, before firing two shots from a 40cm gun wrapped in black tape.

He was arrested on the spot by the police.

Yamagami was a loner who didn’t answer when addressed, neighbors told Reuters.

He believed that Abe had promoted a religious group that his mother had gone bankrupt and donated to, the Kyodo news agency said, citing investigative sources.

“My mother became involved in a religious group and I hated it,” Kyodo and other domestic media quoted him as saying to police. Nara police declined to comment on details reported by Japanese media about Yamagami’s motive or preparation.

Media did not name the religious group he was allegedly angry with.

Yamagami built the weapon from parts purchased online, spent months planning the attack and even attended other Abe campaign events, including the day before, some 200 miles away, media reported.

He had considered a bomb attack before opting for a weapon, NHK said.

The suspect told police he made guns by wrapping steel tubes with tape, some containing three, five or six tubes, with parts he bought online, NHK said.

Police found bullet holes in a sign attached to a campaign van near the shooting site and believe they came from Yamagami, police said on Saturday.

Videos showed Abe turning towards the attacker after the first shot before falling to the ground after the second.

Yamagami lived on the eighth floor of an apartment building. One of his neighbours, a 69-year-old woman who lived one floor below him, saw him three days before Abe’s murder.

“I said hello, but he ignored me. He just looked at the ground and was not wearing a mask. He seemed nervous,” the woman, who only mentioned her last name Nakayama, told Reuters.

“It was like I was invisible. It seemed like something was bothering him.’

A person named Tetsuya Yamagami served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force from 2002 to 2005, a Japanese Navy spokesman said, but declined to say whether this was the suspected killer, media have reported.

Sometime after leaving the Navy, Yamagami signed up with an employment agency and began working at a factory in Kyoto in late 2020 as a forklift driver, Mainichi newspaper reported.

He had no problems until mid-April, when he missed work without permission and then told his boss he wanted to quit, the paper said. He had used up his vacation and ended on May 15.

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