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Japan PM Kishida unhurt after smoke bomb thrown during campaigning

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was unhurt after a man threw what appeared to be a smoke bomb during his visit to western Japan for a stump speech on Saturday, less than a year after a former premier was fatally shot during election campaigning.

Kishida immediately left by car after the incident, which took place as he was talking with a candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party just before he was due to make a speech in a fishing port in the city of Wakayama. According to investigative sources, a 24-year-old man was arrested at the scene.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is pictured during a visit to a fishing port in Wakayama, western Japan, on April 15, 2023, for a lower house by-election stump speech. (Kyodo)

In a stump speech elsewhere in the city, Kishida said the incident should not be allowed to disrupt the electoral process. “Together with you all, we have to carry on with the election.”

Toshimitsu Motegi, secretary general of the LDP, said, “It is deplorable that such violence took place during an election, a bedrock of democracy.”

The suspected smoke bomb was thrown at around 11:25 a.m. from among a crowd of several hundred people. A loud explosion was heard, sending people fleeing in panic, and there was a smell of burning.

Naoya Tanimoto, who was among the crowd, said he heard a loud explosion around 10 seconds after the man was wrestled to the ground. “It is usually quiet in the fishing port, so I was really scared. We were all in a panic,” Tanimoto, 31, said.

Fire trucks were mobilized but there were no reports of injuries.

After the incident, Kishida was escorted by security police officers to a car parked just a dozen meters away and driven to the headquarters of the Wakayama prefectural police.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fatally shot in July last year during a stump speech in the city of Nara before the House of Councillors election, leading the National Police Agency to bolster its security of VIPs.

The agency had also called for security to be stepped up ahead of House of Representatives by-elections in late April and the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, western Japan, in May.

The latest incident took place during official campaigning for a lower house by-election in the Wakayama No. 1 district.

A woman in her 50s who works near the fishing port said, “I thought there was some kind of explosion and something similar to what happened to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might have occurred.”

A man is held down after throwing what appeared to be a smoke bomb at Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Wakayama, western Japan, on April 15, 2023. (Kyodo)

Chronology of major attacks on politicians in Japan

The following is a list of major attacks on politicians in Japan.

Jan. 18, 1990 — Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima shot by member of right-wing group, suffers serious injury.

March 20, 1992 — Shin Kanemaru, vice president of ruling Liberal Democratic Party, unhurt after gun shots fired in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture.

May 30, 1994 — Ex-Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa unhurt after gun attack at Tokyo hotel.

Oct. 25, 2002 — Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Koki Ishii stabbed to death by right-wing group leader.

April 17, 2007 — Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito shot by senior member of crime syndicate, dies next day.

July 8, 2022 — Ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dies after being shot by man while giving stump speech in Nara.

April 15, 2023 — Prime Minister Fumio Kishida unhurt after smoke bomb thrown during stump speech in Wakayama for by-election.

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