TOKYO >> Japan’s National Police Agency said in a report Thursday that flaws in basic security such as an absence of metal detectors and bag checks allowed an attacker to enter a campaign crowd unnoticed and throw a pipe bomb at Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in April.
The bomb fell near Kishida and he was pushed away by special police before it exploded and he was unhurt.
A suspect, Ryuji Kimura, 24, was arrested at the scene of the April 15 attack in the fishing port of Saikazaki in the western prefecture of Wakayama, where Kishida was about to make a campaign speech for a local candidate.
Kimura remains in police custody and is undergoing a court-approved mental evaluation until Sept. 1.
Some of the people attending the campaign rally, who were mostly from the fishing community, said they were surprised by the loose security arrangements, such as the lack of bag checks and the close distance between them and the prime minister.
The attack occurred less than a year after the July 2022 assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a campaign speech in Nara city, which prompted the dismissal of top national and local police officials over lax security. The National Police Agency also compiled plans to improve protection of dignitaries.
“We take it seriously that this case occurred less than a year after (Abe’s assassination), and that’s why we have compiled this report,” National Police Agency chief Yasuhiro Tsuyuki said.
The report said no effective measures were in place to detect and prevent anyone possessing weapons from approaching the prime minister.
The local fisheries cooperative had told police that the audience would be limited to its members and their families. Staff of the cooperative were assigned to verify attendees by looking at their faces, but failed to recognize Kimura as a stranger.
The report urged organizers of campaign rallies to employ metal detectors and baggage checks, and hold speeches by political leaders and other dignitaries indoors. It said experienced police officers should be deployed to more effectively detect suspicious actions.
While members of the audience were taking photos of Kishida with their smartphones, security staff failed to spot the attacker lighting his first pipe bomb and throwing it at Kishida, the report said.
The attack was not noticed until a fisherman saw him attempt to throw a second bomb and stopped him from behind, it said.