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Analysis: Shinzo Abe's critical security flaws were sealed for 2.5 seconds

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  Eight security experts who watched the assassination video believe that Shinzo Abe could have been rescu...


Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  Eight security experts who watched the assassination video believe that Shinzo Abe could have been rescued if his bodyguards had protected him or moved him out of harm's way during the 2.5 seconds between the missing first shot and the second volley of gunfire that killed him.

The inability to shield Abe from the second bullet came after what seemed to be a string of security blunders prior to the killing of Japan's longest-serving prime leader on July 8, according to Japanese and foreign experts.

The murder of Abe in the western city of Nara by a man using a homemade weapon stunned a society where there is little gun violence and where candidates for office run unprotected and in close proximity to the general public.

Security breaches have been admitted by Japanese authorities, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and police say they are looking into them.

In addition to the security professionals, Reuters also spoke with six witnesses who were present at the scene and looked at numerous web videos that were shot from various perspectives in order to piece together a comprehensive description of the security precautions taken prior to his shooting.

The shooter, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, was allowed by his security detail to approach 67-year-old Abe unchecked and within a few metres of him while carrying a weapon, the video showed. Police have identified Yamagami as the shooter.

According to Kenneth Bombace, CEO of Global Threat Solutions, who was in charge of providing security for Joe Biden while he was a presidential contender, "they should have spotted the attacker coming very methodically towards the rear of the prime minister and interfered."

According to the Yomiuri newspaper, which cited investigation sources, Yamagami fired his first shot, which missed, at Abe from a distance of about 7 metres (23 feet). He reportedly fired the second shot from a distance of about 5 metres, which connected.

John Soltys, a former Navy SEAL and CIA officer who is currently a vice president at security company Prosegur, observed that Abe's bodyguards did not appear to have "concentric rings of security" around him. "There was no crowd surveillance of any type,"

The Nara Prefectural Police, who were in charge of providing security for Abe's campaign stop, responded to a question regarding the experts' analysis by telling Reuters in a statement that they were "committed to thoroughly identifying the security problems" with Abe's protection but declined to provide any further comment.

After the initial shot, Abe turns and looks to his left, as seen on the video. Two bodyguards rush to block the shooter from him, one of them carrying a small black bag. Two more walk in the direction of the gunman as he advances through the haze.

Even though Abe's security quickly subdued the attacker and took him into custody, some of the security should have moved to defend Abe, according to Mitsuru Fukuda, a professor at Nihon University who specialises in crisis management and terrorism.

Yasuhiro Sasaki, a retired police officer who oversaw VIP protection in the Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, claimed that there was adequate security but "no sense of danger." Because everyone was surprised, nobody went to find Abe.

Questions were directed to the Nara police by the Tokyo police, who are in charge of the security for VIP lawmakers.

The National Police Agency, which is in charge of local police forces, claimed that Abe's murder was the result of the police's failure to uphold their duty and declared that it had formed a team to review security and protection protocols and to think through specific actions to avoid a repeat of such a grave incident.

In response to Reuters' inquiries, the organisation said: "We acknowledge that there were difficulties not only in the on-site reaction, such as the security and protection set-up, deployment of staff, and fundamental security protocols, but also in the way the National Police Agency was involved."

Yamagami, who is still being held by the police, could not be reached by Reuters for comment, and it was unclear whether he was represented by counsel.

Averted: "COULD HAVE BEEN"

According to Koichi Ito, a former sergeant with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's special assault unit who is now a security consultant, footage shows four bodyguards inside the barriers as Abe spoke. Local politician Masahiro Okuni, who was present, confirmed their number.

Yamagami could be seen clapping in the background of the video as the former prime minister rose to speak.

The video indicated that security did not appear to intervene as Yamagami approached Abe from behind.

An employee of the United States Diplomatic Security Service, which guards senior diplomats and foreign dignitaries, claimed that Abe should have had a designated close protection bodyguard to get him away.

The agent explained, "We would take him by the belt and collar, shield him with our body, and move away."

If Abe's security detail had been close enough to reach him in a split second, according to Katsuhiko Ikeda, a former superintendent general of the Tokyo police who oversaw security for Japan's Group of Eight summits in 2000 and 2008, the event might have played out very differently.

According to Ito, a retired police sergeant, security could have prevented the opening shot if they had been alert and in touch.

There was a window of more than two seconds before the second shot, so they undoubtedly could have avoided it, he stated. It might have been prevented if Abe had been adequately protected.


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