Religious group confirms mother of Abe shooting suspect was a member

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On Friday, security police tackle Tetsuya Yamagami, accused of shooting former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outside Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara, Japan. Photo by Asahi Shimbun/EPA-EFE

July 11 (UPI) — The mother of the man accused of murdering former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a member of the group commonly known as the Unification Church, which the suspect cited as the motivation for the attack.

Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Japanese chapter of the Federation of Families for World Peace and Unification, told a press conference on Monday that Tetsuya Yamagami’s mother attends monthly meetings at the church.

Yamagami, who was arrested shortly after Abe’s death on Friday, told police his mother made a large donation to a religious group 20 years ago which hurt the family’s finances. He accused Abe of supporting the organization. Police have not confirmed the group’s name.

In a statement on Saturday, the federation expressed “shock and sorrow” at Abe’s murder.

“As an organization, the Family Federation emphasizes the value of the family in building a peaceful society,” the statement said. “We condemn this act of violence. Guns have no place in our religious beliefs or practices.”

The group was founded in 1954 in South Korea by Reverend Sun Myung Moon as the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. Tanaka said that neither Yamagami nor Abe were members.

Meanwhile, Nara Prefectural Police said Monday that security cameras spotted a vehicle similar to Yamagami’s at one of the group’s facilities near his home the day before the shooting.

Nearby residents said they heard a “loud noise” in the early morning as the van was there.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, died at Nara Medical University Hospital after being shot while delivering a campaign speech to a small crowd on a Nara street. The death shocked Japan, which is seeking a rare number of gun deaths due to its gun laws.

Police said Yamagami, a former member of the Japanese military, made the gun and several types of other firearms out of iron pipes wrapped in duct tape. Authorities found firearms with three, five and six iron pipes as barrels.

Shinzo Abe, then deputy general secretary of the Liberal Democratic Party, speaks to the media after a four-day trip to India at the PLD’s headquarters in Tokyo March 23, 2005. He stressed the importance of better relations with India . Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License picture