Lack of security for Japanese prime minister surprised many

The fishermen who tackled the man suspected of the second attack on a Japanese political leader in less than a year were surprised by the lack of security for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Fisherman Tsutomu Konishi was watching Kishida at a campaign event at this fishing port when an object flew overhead and landed near the prime minister, Konishi said. A security officer covered the object with a bulletproof briefcase, Konishi said. The fishermen swarmed the attacker.

“I never thought a crime like this would happen in my hometown, which is a rather small fishing area,” Konishi, 41, said Sunday as he sipped a can of coffee at the port of Saikazaki. “I’m still shocked and stunned.”

The prime minister was unhurt but like many others in Japan, Konishi was mulling Sunday what the country should do to better protect public figures.

“At a time when Japan’s serving prime minister was visiting, perhaps we may have needed a metal detector,” Konishi said.

Masaki Nishide, a 55-year-old fisherman from Saikazaki, said most of the people at Saturday’s event were residents and supporters of the local candidate. He said the young man carrying the silver-gray backpack stood out.

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“People here all dress like me, and nobody carries a backpack; it was only him,” Nishide said, wearing a sweatsuit and red rubber boots. “If I were in charge of security, I would have asked for a bag check.”

After the failed attack on the prime minister, one of the fishermen grabbed the suspect’s neck from behind, another pushed his head down, and Konishi latched onto his leg. They were holding the man as police officers pulled him to the ground.

The chaotic scene was reminiscent of the assassination nine months ago of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which prompted police to tighten their protective measures after an investigation found holes in Abe’s security. Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, was killed with a homemade gun during a campaign speech.

Suspect Tetsuya Yamagami has been charged with murder and several other crimes, including violating gun-control laws.

Authorities have said Yamagami told investigators he killed Abe because of the former prime minister’s apparent links to a religious group that Yamagami hated. In statements and in social media postings attributed to him, Yamagami said his mother’s donations to the Unification Church bankrupted his family and ruined his life.

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