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Japanese say final goodbye to former leader Abe

TOKYO (AP) – Japanese bid their final goodbye to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday as a family funeral was held at a temple days after his assassination that shocked the nation.

Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister who remained influential even after he stepped down two years ago, was gunned down last Friday during a campaign speech in the western city of Nara.

Hundreds of people, some in formal dark suits, filled pedestrian walks outside of the Zojoji temple in downtown Tokyo to bid farewell to Abe, whose nationalistic views drove the governing party’s ultraconservative policies.

Mourners waved, took photos on their smartphones, and some called out “Abe san!” as a motorcade including a hearse carrying his body, accompanied by his widow slowly drove by the packed crowd. Akie Abe was seen lowering her head to the crowd.

Only she and close family members, as well as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and senior party leaders, attended the funeral at the temple.

The hearse made a tour of Tokyo’s main political headquarters of Nagata-cho, where Abe spent over three decades since he was first elected in 1991. It then drove slowly by the party headquarters, where senior party lawmakers in dark suits stood outside and prayed, before heading to the prime minister’s office, where Abe served a total of nearly a decade.

The vehicle carrying the body of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Zojoji temple after his funeral in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

Kishida and his Cabinet members pressed their hands before their chest as they prayed and bowed to Abe’s body inside before the hearse headed to a crematorium.

On Sunday, two days after Abe’s shocking death, his governing Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner won a landslide victory in the upper house, the less powerful of Japan’s two-chamber Parliament.

That could allow Kishida to govern uninterrupted until a scheduled election in 2025, but the loss of Abe also opened up a period of uncertainly for his party.

Experts said a power struggle within the party faction Abe led is certain and could affect Kishida’s grip on power.

Kishida stressed the importance of party unity after Abe’s death.

In a country where gun crime is vanishingly rare, Abe’s shooting also shook the nation known as the world’s safest and have some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested on the spot last Friday and is being detained at a local prosecutors’ office for further investigation.

They can detain him for up to three weeks while deciding whether to formally press charges.

Yesterday, Public Security Chief Satoshi Ninoyu told reporters he has instructed the National Police Agency to investigate security for political and business leaders.

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