MOURNERS lined the streets of Tokyo today to pay their respects at the funeral of assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Crowds packed pavements and bowed deeply as a hearse carrying his coffin – with his widow Akie in the front seat – processed through the flag-draped capital.
AFPMourners line the streets as a hearse carrying Shinzo Abe’s coffin leaves Zojoji Temple in Tokyo today[/caption]
ReutersAkie Abe, the ex-PM’s widow, sits in the front seat of the hearse[/caption]
ReutersHuge crowds gathered to pay their final respects[/caption]
Current PM Fumio Kishida bows in respect as the cortege stops outside the prime ministerial offices in TokyoRexShinzo Abe, Japan’s longest serving PM, was assassinated on Friday aged 67Getty
Japan‘s current prime minister Fumio Kishida and ranks of officials held their hands in prayer and bowed as the cortege stopped briefly outside the PM’s offices.
Mr Abe – Japan’s longest serving PM – was in charge for a total of nine years.
On Friday he died aged 67 after being gunned down with a homemade weapon at a campaign rally in Nara.
It shocked a nation where guns are strictly controlled and shootings are rare.
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Flowers and national flags draped with black mourning ribbons were displayed across Tokyo for today’s procession.
Long queues formed outside the central Zojoji Temple, where the funeral took place following an overnight vigil.
After a private ceremony this morning a dozen helicopters circled overhead as the black motorcade set off slowly through the streets.
Members of the public waited hours to see the cortege, and silently bowed their heads in respect as it passed.
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Others clapped and cheered, and one man repeatedly shouted: “Thank you very much for your work for our country.”
The hearse also made a stop outside the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party, where officials and politicians gathered to bid him a final farewell.
Mr Abe led the party and served as prime minister from 2006-07 and again from 2012-20.
Last night international VIPs including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen were among the hundreds at Mr Abe’s wake in the temple.
She said: “There is a profound sense of sorrow at his loss.
“Prime Minister Abe was a visionary leader and he strengthened Japan. I know that his legacy will live on.”
But China sparked a diplomatic row by lodging a formal complaint over Taiwan‘s Vice President William Lai attending the ceremony.
Mr Abe quit as PM two years ago but was out campaigning for parliamentary elections when he was ambushed on Friday.
The gunman was pictured lurking behind Mr Abe as he prepared to make a speech.
Moments later he blasted the victim in the neck and chest with a makeshift shotgun constructed from two pipes and a wooden plank.
Bodyguards wrestled the gunman to the ground in dramatic pictures from the scene.
Unemployed navy veteran Yamagami Tetsuya later told cops he “had no choice but to kill” Mr Abe, according to reports.
He is said to believe the ex-PM was linked to The Moonies, who he blames for ruining his mother financially.
Investigators allege he spent months planning the assassination and bought gun parts online.
They reportedly found a chilling arsenal of DIY weapons at Tetsuya’s flat including explosives and a nine-barrelled shotgun.
The 41-year-old suspect told cops he made guns by wrapping steel pipes together with tape, NHK reports.
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The homemade guns appeared to be electrically fired.
A neighbour said he never met Tetsuya but heard noises like a saw being used several times late at night over the past month.
APCrowds of people packed pavements for today’s procession through central Tokyo[/caption]
EPASoldiers give the cortege a guard of honour as it leaves the temple[/caption]
ReutersPoliticians and officials pray as the hearse stops at the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party[/caption]
APMourners lay flowers in memory of the late former PM at Zojoji temple[/caption]
ReutersWidow Akie Abe arrives in the hearse ahead of a vigil last night[/caption]
AFPShinzo Abe pictured moments before he was shot, with the gunman lurking behind[/caption]
APYamagami Tetsuya was detained at the scene holding a homemade shotgun[/caption]
ReutersYamagami Tetsuya allegedly told cops he ‘had no choice but to kill’[/caption]
twitter @PopularFront_A nine-barelled gun was among makeshift weapons seized from the suspect’s home[/caption]