- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TOKYO — The mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki was fatally shot in a brazen attack yesterday 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. There were 53 known shootings in all of Japan last year.

Mayor Iccho Ito, 61, was shot twice in the back at point-blank range outside a train station yesterday evening, Nagasaki police official Rumi Tsujimoto said.

One of the bullets struck the mayor’s heart and he went into cardiac arrest, according to Nagasaki University Hospital spokesman Kenzo Kusano. Mr. 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 to shooting Mr. Ito with a handgun with the intent to kill, Nagasaki chief investigator Kazuki Umebayashi said at a press conference.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a “rigorous investigation.”

It was the second attack in the past 20 years on a mayor of Nagasaki, which was destroyed by a U.S. atomic bomb in the closing days of World War II in 1945 and whose leaders have actively campaigned against militarism.

In 1990, Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima was shot and seriously wounded after saying that Japan’s emperor, beloved by rightists, bore some responsibility for World War II.

Yesterday’s attack appeared to involve a trivial matter, however.

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 up, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Shiroo also sent a letter to broadcaster TV Asahi to protest recent money scandals linked to Mr. Ito, including hidden accounts and public works contracts, Kyodo 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 long-standing political alliance with right-wing nationalists in Japan, although authorities did not indicate that yesterday’s attack was politically motivated.

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