Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has been shot while giving a speech in the western city of Nara.
Current prime minister Fumio Kishida said Mr Abe is in a “grave condition”. He is asking all members of the cabinet to return to Tokyo.
Public broadcaster NHK said Mr Abe appeared to have been in a state of cardiac arrest. He held his chest as he collapsed, his shirt smeared with blood.
It looked as if Mr Abe had been shot from behind, the channel added, while TBS Television said he had been shot on the left side of his chest and also possibly in the neck.
Kyodo News reported that he had been shot in the right side of the neck.
NHK aired footage showing Mr Abe, 67, collapsed in the street, with security guards running toward him.
It added that a white puff of smoke was seen as Mr Abe made a campaign speech outside a railway station.
A reporter at the scene said they heard two consecutive bangs during Mr Abe’s address.
A spokesman for Nara City Fire Department said Mr Abe was in cardiopulmonary arrest before being taken to hospital.
A 41-year-old man has been arrested, police said.
The suspect told officers he was unhappy with Mr Abe and intended to kill him, NHK reported.
It is also reported that the man served in the Japanese Navy.
Political violence is rare in Japan, which has strict gun regulations.
“A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, no matter what the reasons are, and we condemn it strongly,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said.
US ambassador Rahm Emanuel commented: “The US government and American people are praying for the well-being of Abe-san, his family, and the people of Japan.”
Outgoing UK prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “utterly appalled and saddened to hear about the despicable attack on Shinzo Abe”.
Mr Abe served two terms as prime minister – becoming Japan’s longest-serving premier – before stepping down in 2020, saying a chronic health problem had resurfaced.
But he has remained a dominant presence in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling one of its major factions.
Mr Kishida, his protege, faces an upper house election on Sunday, in which analysts say he hopes to emerge from Mr Abe’s shadow and define his own premiership.