Tokyo/ Hong Kong
Police have raided the home of a man suspected of throwing an explosive near Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as the leader vowed to ensure maximum security to keep global dignitaries safe during G7 meetings in the country next month.
Kishida had to abandon a speech on Saturday when a small explosive device was thrown in his direction while he was campaigning for the ruling party’s by-election candidate at the port city of Wakayama in western Japan.
The attack came nine months since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died after being shot at a political rally by a man using a homemade gun in an assassination that rocked Japan and sparked criticism over whether enough security was in place.
Investigators probing Saturday’s attack searched the home of the alleged suspect, 24-year-old Ryuji Kimura, in the city of Kawanishi in Hyogo Prefecture early on Sunday morning, police told CNN.
Police confirmed two cylindrical pipes were found at the scene of the blast, including one that exploded and another that was unused. Some type of powder, tools, a computer, mobile phone and tablet were also confiscated from the suspect.
They also removed more than 10 cardboard boxes believed to contain relevant materials in an operation that ended shortly after 9 a.m. local time, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Dramatic video footage of the attack showed a silver cylinder thrown in the direction of Kishida rolling on the floor as a bodyguard then scrambled to kick the object away from the prime minister and used a protective board to shield him. There was a commotion in the crowd as a man tried to flee before being apprehended. Seconds later a loud blast set off smoke.
The man was arrested at the scene on “suspicion of forcible obstruction of business” and taken to the Wakayama West Police Station for questioning. In Japan, “forcible obstruction of business” is a crime – “to obstruct another person’s business by force.” It is punishable by a jail term of up to three years and a fine of 500,000 yen (about $3,735).
While Kishida was evacuated unharmed, the attack sent a wave of unnerving déjà vu over Abe’s assassination during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara. Abe’s death horrified a nation that is rarely associated with political and gun violence.
On Sunday, Kishida said he called to thank the local fisherman’s association in Wakayama, who helped secure the suspect before he was apprehended by police.
The Prime Minister said Japan must do everything to ensure safety as foreign dignitaries gather for G7 meetings which take place in Hiroshima from May 19 to 21.
“Japan as a whole must strive to provide maximum security during the dates of the summit (in Hiroshima next month) and other gatherings of dignitaries from around the world,” Kishida said on Sunday.
His comments came as G7 foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, began three days of talks in the central Japanese town of Karuizawa, Nagano prefecture.