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Japanese lawmaker stabbed to death

A campaigning Japanese lawmaker was stabbed to death outside his home Friday in what Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi condemned as an intolerable "assassination."

Koki Ishii, a member of the opposition known for exposing corruption and wasteful government spending, was attacked outside his home in western Tokyo by a lone assailant using a 30-centimeter (12-inch) blade.

There was no immediate indication whether the killing was politically motivated, but if it proves to be, it would be Japan's first political assassination in more than 40 years.

The 61-year-old was about to get into his chauffeur-driven car at 1015 a.m. when the attacker struck.

The assailant, who appeared to be around 50 years old, quietly walked up to Ishii and stabbed him with a Japanese-style fish-filleting knife in the jaw, hands and left side of his chest, reports said. The knife was found at the scene.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) politician's Russian wife Natasha rushed out of the couple's home in Tokyo's affluent Setagaya Ward and screamed for help.

Officials at the National Tokyo Medical Center, where Ishii was taken, said that doctors officially pronounced Ishii dead at 12:05 p.m. Reports said he suffered massive hemorrhaging from a wound that reached from a lung to his heart.

The killer was wearing a gray jacket with a red bandana on his head, one report said, quoting police sources.

Neighbors said the man had been seen loitering outside Ishii's house more than 90 minutes before the attack, according to one report.

The killing drew outraged condemnation from Prime Minister Koizumi, who said he was "enraged."

"In any situation, we must not allow suppression of political activities by violence. Assassinations cannot be tolerated," Koizumi told reporters. "I am enraged by this."

DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama praised Ishii's record of fighting corruption.

"He had a strong sense of justice and was always pursuing wrongdoing," Hatoyama said.

Attacks on politicians are extremely rare in Japan, with Ishii's murder only the fourth killing of a politician since the end of World War II.

Inejiro Asanuma, chairman of the now disbanded Japan Socialist Party, was stabbed to death by a right-wing youth while delivering a speech in Tokyo in 1960.

Former Labor Minister Hyosuke Niwa was stabbed in the neck by an apparently deranged man in 1990 and died 12 days later.

Shinjiro Yamamura, a former transport minister, also was stabbed to death in 1992 by his daughter, who was reportedly mentally ill.

At least eight other politicians have been the victims of non-fatal assaults ranging from being shot to being attacked with an ashtray.

A former law lecturer, Ishii studied at Tokyo's elite Waseda University before completing his education at Moscow University.

Ishii was first elected to national parliament in 1993 representing the now-defunct New Japan Party, and was head of the DPJ's party's so-called "G-Man Squad," which campaigned against corruption.

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