Shinzo Abe’s body returns to his home as Japan grieves for slain ex-PM

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A motorcade carrying the body of former prime minister Shinzo Abe arrived at his home in the Japanese capital on Saturday, a day after he was assassinated by a lone gunman in a rare act of political violence that has shocked the country.

Mourners gathered at his residence and at the scene of Friday’s attack in the western city of Nara, where Japan’s longest-serving modern leader was gunned down while making a campaign speech, a murder decried by the political establishment as an attack on democracy itself.

Authorities are reviewing security arrangements at the event where Abe was shot from close range by a 41-year-old unemployed man armed with a homemade gun. Police say the man held a grudge against Abe.

Elections for seats in Japan’s upper house of parliament are going ahead as scheduled on Sunday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was back on the campaign trail visiting regional constituencies after making an emergency return to Tokyo on Friday after the shooting.

A metal detector, not normally seen at election events in largely crime-free Japan, was installed at a site in Fujiyoshida city where Kishida was due to give a campaign speech. There was also a heavy police presence.

In Nara, some 450 km southwest of Tokyo, a stream of people queued up to lay flowers on a table, that also held a photograph of Abe.

“I’m just shocked that this kind of thing happened in Nara,” Natsumi Niwa, a 50-year-old housewife, said after offering her flowers, with her 10-year-old son, near the scene of the killing outside a downtown train station.

Niwa explained how Abe, a conservative and architect of the “Abenomics” policies aimed at reflating the economy, had inspired the name of her son, Masakuni.

Abe used to hail Japan as a “beautiful nation”. “Kuni” means nation in Japanese.

A night vigil will be held on Monday. Abe’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, attended by close friends, media said.

There was no immediate word on any public memorial service.

Police are scrambling to establish details of the motive and method of Abe’s killer.

The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, arrested immediately after the attack, told police he believed Abe was linked to a religious group he blamed for ruining his mother financially and breaking up the family, media reported, citing police sources.

Police have not identified the group.

The man told investigators he had also visited other spots where Abe had made campaign appearances, including in the city of Okayama, more than 200 km from Nara, media reported.