KOBE – A man believed to be a bodyguard of the head of a yakuza splinter group linked to the largest crime syndicate in the country was shot dead during a violent ambush Tuesday in Kobe, police said.
The man, identified as Yuhiro Kusumoto, 44 , was shot on a street in Nagata Ward at around 10 a.m. in an incident believed to be connected to an apparent feud with the Yamaguchi-gumi, according to police.
The man was taken to a hospital but pronounced dead about 75 minutes later.
The splinter group, Ninkyo Yamaguchi-gumi, was formed in April after separating from the Yamaguchi-gumi.
On Tuesday, several cars apparently belonging to the new group tried to enter a main street and were forced to stop by another vehicle in an ambush, where gunshots were heard, the police said.
A suspect who carried out the shooting, believed to be in his 40s or 50s, fled after leaving a vehicle at the scene of the incident, they said.
At least two gunshots were heard in the residential area .
“I heard a noise like when a tire went flat,” said a nearby shopkeeper, adding that as he rushed outside, he saw a man lying next to a car with the door left open on the driver’s side.
Another person witnessed men arguing and wrestling on the street before he heard the first gunshot. The second gunshot was fired while the witness was trying to report the incident to the police, he said.
An elementary school nearby decided to close early for the day and directed the students to go home in groups under supervision by teachers.
“I’m worried that children may get caught up” in the gang violence, said a women in her 30s who lives in the neighborhood.