Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was shot earlier today, died in a hospital, local media reported.

Citing a senior member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, national broadcaster NHK said “former prime minister Abe died at a hospital in Kashihara city, Nara, where he was receiving medical treatment. He was 67.”

The assassination of the country’s best-known politician comes despite Japan’s strict gun laws and with campaigning under way ahead of upper house elections on Sunday.

Earlier Prime Minister Fumio Kishida abandoned the campaign trail and flew to Tokyo by helicopter where he addressed reporters in a voice that wavered with emotion.

“Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot in Nara and I have been informed he is in a very grave condition

he said. “I pray that former prime minister Abe will survive,” he added, condemning “a barbaric act during election campaigning, which is the foundation of democracy.”

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The attack came before noon in the country’s western region of Nara, where Abe, 67, had been delivering a stump speech with security present, but spectators able to approach him easily.

Footage broadcast by NHK showed him standing on a stage when a man dressed in a grey shirt and brown trousers begins approaching from behind, before drawing something from a bag and firing.

At least two shots appear to be fired, each producing a cloud of smoke.