Japan bids somber farewell to ex-PM Abe

STORY: Japan on Tuesday (July 12) said farewell to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - as huge crowds packed the pavements to pay their respects to their longest serving premier.

A private funeral had been held earlier.

The 67-year old was shot at a campaign rally last week - while speaking in the Japanese city of Nara.

He died around 5 hours after the shooting - in a killing that has shocked a country where political violence and gun crime are rare.

A hearse carried Abe’s body through Tokyo with a heavy police presence - passing hundreds of mourners.

Keiko Noumi, a 58-year-old teacher, was one of many who came to offer prayers and flowers to a large photograph of Abe:

"There was a sense of security when he was the prime minister and in charge of the country. We felt safe with him in charge. I was really supporting him, so this is really quite unfortunate."

The hearse also drove past the parliament where a young Abe first entered in 1993.

The current prime minister Fumio Kishida and other lawmakers bowed their heads as it slowly passed.

Tributes have poured in from international leaders - with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken making a brief stop en route to the U.S. from Southeast Asia on Monday (July 11) morning to pay his respects.

And French leader Emmanuel Macron paid his respects in a short visit to the Japanese ambassador's residence in Paris.

Nearly 2 thousand condolence messages arrived from nations around the world - Kyodo news agency has said.

The suspected killer, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, shot Abe from behind, unloading two shots from an improvised weapon wrapped with black tape.

Japan's Chief cabinet secretary told a news conference on Tuesday that the government will consider whether there is a need to further regulate handmade guns.

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