In this week’s news roundup, we take a closer look at the explosive attack on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. A month away from the G7 Hiroshima Summit, the incident, which brought back memories of Shinzo Abe’s slaying last year, further raises concerns about security in this country. Also this week, we have the latest on the conflict in Sudan as Japan plans to evacuate its nationals from the region, plus the searches for the Connecticut woman who disappeared while hiking the Kumano Kodo trail and the crew members of the GSDF helicopter that went missing on April 6. In sport, Rui Hachimura stars for the Los Angeles Lakers in their first two play-off games against the Memphis Grizzlies.

PM Evades Injury in Pipe Bomb Attack

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had to be evacuated on Saturday after a man threw a homemade pipe bomb in his direction. The PM was minutes away from giving a stump speech at a fishing port in Wakayama city when a loud explosion rang out. He was standing around a meter away from where the cylindrical object landed, before being pushed away from the scene, uninjured. The assailant, Ryuji Kimura, 24, was holding a second explosive device. Fortunately, he was subdued by a local fisherman, who managed to knock it out of his hand. He was arrested at the scene.

Kimura, who also had a knife in his bag, has maintained his silence since the attack. It’s been suggested that he was harboring a grudge over Japan’s electoral system. According to court records, he was unable to launch his candidacy for a House of Councillors election last year due to his age and the need to put up a deposit. The Hyogo Prefecture-native subsequently filed a lawsuit in the Kobe District Court, seeking damages of ¥100,000 for mental distress. On Sunday, police spent more than eight hours searching his home. They reportedly found gunpowder, along with pipe-like objects and tools.

The G7 Summit is due to take place in Hiroshima next month | Image by 365 Focus Photography via Shutterstock

Security Concerns Grow Ahead of G7 Hiroshima Summit

The attack on Kishida came less than a year after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated in Nara. Both were targeted from close range. This has raised some concerns about VIP security leading up to the G7 Hiroshima Summit, set to take place between May 19 and 21. “There is no doubt that it was a security failure because the prime minister was giving his speech at the worst possible place where he couldn’t possibly be protected,” Mitsuru Fukuda, a Nihon University professor specialising in crisis management terrorism, told Reuters.

“In light of (Abe’s) shooting, police have said their security plans would be reviewed and revised, but I don’t think they are implementing any of these measures,” he added. The situation will, of course, be very different for G7 leaders next month as they won’t be meeting the public. However, it is disconcerting for the host nation to have such a high-profile security breach so close to the summit. “At a time when high-ranking officials from all over the world are visiting, Japan needs to maximise its efforts to ensure security and safety,” Kishida told reporters on Sunday.

Over 300 people have already died in the conflict in Sudan | Image by Millenius via Shutterstock

Government Prepares to Evacuate Japanese Nationals from Sudan

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on Wednesday that preparations to evacuate Japanese nationals from Sudan have begun. Heavy fighting broke out in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Saturday. The hostilities are a result of a power struggle within the country’s military leadership between regular army units, loyal to General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. Efforts to get the two groups to implement a 24-hour ceasefire broke down on Tuesday and Wednesday as the fighting continued. Over 300 people have already been killed.

With the conflict escalating, the Japanese government decided to act. It is preparing to dispatch Self-Defense Forces’ transport airplanes to Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, by the end of this week at the earliest. A joint task force is currently working out evacuation routes from Sudan and other details of the mission. There are believed to be just over 60 Japanese citizens in the Northeast African country. Matsuno said he was able to contact all of them and confirmed that nobody was injured. The situation is perilous, though, as the fighting is affecting food supplies and access to water and electricity.

A UH-60JA helicopter | Image by yanchi1984 via Shutterstock

Six Bodies Found Near Wrecked Helicopter Fuselage

The search for missing crew members from the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) helicopter that went missing off Miyako Island in Okinawa two weeks ago continues. On Sunday, it was announced that saturation divers had discovered the damaged fuselage of the chopper at a depth of 106 meters below the surface of the ocean, around six kilometers north of Irabu Island. Searching in and around the main part of the helicopter, they then found the remains of five people. Two of those bodies were retrieved on the same day, followed by three more on Monday.

On Tuesday, divers found a sixth body. The GSDF and others have since expanded the search area as they attempt to locate the four people still missing.”We’ll do our utmost to ensure that [Lieutenant General Yuichi] Sakamoto and the members of his team, who gave their all for the defense of the nation and Japanese people, return home to their families as soon as possible. And we’ll also work to investigate the cause of the accident,” said Prime Minister Kishida. The Defense Ministry is trying to retrieve the flight data recorder to shed light on why the helicopter crashed.

The GoFundMe page for Patricia Wu-Murad

Connecticut Woman Disappears Along Kumano Kodo Trail

It’s been more than 10 days since Patricia Wu-Murad, 61, disappeared during a hiking pilgrimage along the Kumano Kodo trail. The Connecticut mother of three was last seen leaving a guesthouse on the morning of April 10. After she failed to show up at the hostel that evening, staff called the police to report her missing. A 72-hour search ended on April 13. Her family was only informed about the situation a day later. They were reportedly told that local authorities were “reluctant to restart the search because they didn’t have any leads” and had “limited resources over the weekends.”

Wu-Murad’s family pleaded with the police to continue looking for her. When this didn’t work, they launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for a private rescue crew. They’ve since surpassed their goal of $100,000. Wu-Murad’s husband, Kirk, and two of their three children arrived in Japan on Sunday. Writing on the GoFundMe page, Wu-Murad’s daughter said Totsukawa police restarted the search for her mother from Tuesday. An avid and experienced hiker, Wu-Murad was said to have planned every part of the 700-mile journey. The family was told that there had been recent mudslides along the trail she was hiking.

allan abani rui hachimura

Rui Hachimura | Image by Allan Abani

Hachimura Shines for the Lakers

The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday to tie the Western Conference play-off series at one game apiece. The standout player for the Lakers in the opening two encounters was Japan’s Rui Hachimura. He became the team’s first player to score 20 points off the bench in back-to-back play-off games since Magic Johnson in 1996. In Major League Baseball, Shohei Ohtani hit his fourth homer of the season against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. Last year’s AL MVP Aaron Judge prevented him from making it five the following day with a spectacular catch above the center-field fence.

In world soccer, Ayase Ueda continued his fine run of scoring form for Cercle Brugge in Belgium. He bagged a brace in his side’s 3-1 win over Sint-Truiden to take his goals tally to 17 for the season. Celtic duo Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda both netted as the Hoops thumped Kilmarnock 4-1 to maintain their 12-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. And in France, Japan U21 international Yuito Suzuki scored 10 minutes after coming on for his Strasbourg debut. It ensured a crucial 3-1 victory for the home side against relegation rivals AC Ajaccio.