JAPAN's former prime minister Shinzo Abe died after a shooting during a campaign speech,  hospital officials have confirmed.

Mr Abe was shot from behind minutes after he started his speech on Friday in Nara in western Japan.

He had been standing while making an election campaign speech ahead of Sunday’s election for the parliament’s upper house.

He was airlifted to a hospital for emergency treatment but was not breathing and his heart had stopped.

Earlier this morning, the country's current leader Fumio Kishida said the 67-year-old is in a "severe condition". 

He said he hoped Mr Abe will survive after shooting prompted him to go into heart failure.

However, it has now been confirmed the former leader has died from his injuries.

This picture taken on July 6, 2022 shows former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering a campaign speech for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate.Extra edition newspapers about Japan's former Prime Minister being shot while campaigning in Nara

Police arrested the suspected gunman at the scene of the attack, which shocked people in a country known as one of the world’s safest.

UK politicians have said it is a "truly dark day" after the news of the shooting first emerged. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Our hearts are with the family of Shinzo Abe and the Japanese people.

“A truly dark day.”

Boris Johnson said he was “utterly appalled” at the shooting. 

This picture taken on July 6, 2022 shows former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering a campaign speech for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate.2019 G7 Summit where Mr Johnson held bilateral talks with Shinzo Abe

Mr Johnson tweeted: “Utterly appalled and saddened to hear about the despicable attack on Shinzo Abe. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted: “Devastated to hear about the attack on former Prime Minister Abe. We stand with our Japanese friends at this difficult time.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”