Nagasaki mayor shot down
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published April 18, 2007
TOKYO - The mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki was shot to death in a brazen attack Tuesday by an organized crime chief apparently enraged that the city refused to compensate him after his car was damaged at a public works construction site, police said.
The shooting was rare in a country where handguns are strictly banned and only five politicians are known to have been killed since World War II.
Mayor Iccho Ito, 61, was shot twice in the back at point-blank range outside a train station Tuesday evening, Nagasaki police official Rumi Tsujimoto said.
One bullets struck the mayor's heart, said Nagasaki University Hospital spokesman Kenzo Kusano. Ito died after emergency surgery, said Nagasaki prefectural police official Hirofumi Ito.
Tetsuya Shiroo, a senior member of Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest organized crime syndicate, was wrestled to the ground by officers after the attack and arrested, police said.
He later admitted the shooting, Nagasaki chief investigator Kazuki Umebayashi said.
Car damage is motive
Shiroo reportedly clashed with Nagasaki city officials in 2003 after his car was damaged when he drove into a hole at a public works site. He tried unsuccessfully to get compensation from the city after his insurance company refused to pay, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
Shiroo also sent a letter to broadcaster TV Asahi to protest recent money scandals linked to Ito, Kyodo news agency reported.
Commonly known as yakuza, Japan's organized crime groups are typically involved in real estate and construction kickback schemes, extortion, gambling, the sex industry, gunrunning and drug trafficking.
The yakuza also have had a longstanding political alliance with right-wing nationalists in Japan, although authorities did not indicate that Tuesday's attack was politically motivated.
Organized crime groups are behind most shootings in Japan, with two-thirds of the country's 53 known shootings last year being gang-related, according to the National Police Agency. Police estimate there are about 84,500 gangsters across Japan.
Peace was a passion
Backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Ito was campaigning for his fourth term in office before elections Sunday. He was an active figure in the movement against nuclear proliferation, heading a coalition of Japanese cities calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Nagasaki was destroyed by a U.S. atomic bomb in the closing days of World War II in 1945, and its leaders have actively campaigned against militarism. Ito was born in Nagasaki on Aug. 23, 1945, just two weeks after the bombing.
"Mayor Ito had a strong and boundless passion for peace," said Sunao Tsuboi, leader of a survivors' group based in Hiroshima, a city also flattened by a U.S. atomic bomb in 1945.
[Last modified April 18, 2007, 02:41:23]
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