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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017.Jorge Silva/Reuters

Update: Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe died from his injuries. Read more here.

Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot while giving a speech Friday in the western city of Nara.

A man in his 40s, Tetsuya Yamagami, has been arrested for attempted murder, police said.

Mr. Abe was rushed to an ambulance and then taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital. He was conscious when he entered the ambulance but went into cardiac arrest soon after and is not showing vital signs, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Japanese media said Mr. Abe was struck twice from behind by apparent shotgun fire, and fell to the ground after the second shot.

A witness who spoke to NHK at the scene said “after the second shot, the man stepped back and the Prime Minister fell to the ground.”

The man, wearing beige trouser, a grey shirt and white face mask, was quickly tackled by Mr. Abe’s security staff. He was carrying what appeared to be a homemade weapon, with a pistol-like grip but large, boxy barrel. One witness described it as looking like a small “bazooka.”

Footage from the scene appeared to show bystanders attempting to resuscitate Mr. Abe after he fell to the ground. Blood could be seen on Mr. Abe’s chest.

Mr. Abe was speaking at a busy intersection in downtown Nara, a city in central Honshu, Japan’s main island, to the east of Osaka. He was stumping for candidates in upcoming elections to Japan’s upper house, due to take place this Sunday.

A spokesman for Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party described the attack as a “threat to democracy that should never be tolerated.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was also on the campaign trail but is returning to Tokyo. His office has established a crisis response unit, NHK reported.

Tobias Harris, author of The Iconoclast, a biography of Mr. Abe, said that during Japanese elections, “there is very little distance between voters and politicians,” and it is rare to see heavy security at campaign stops.

“It’s hard to put into words just how shocking an event this is,” Mr. Harris wrote on Twitter.

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