A man believed to be a bodyguard of the head of a splinter gang group was shot dead Tuesday in the western Japan city of Kobe in an apparent feud with another splinter group of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest crime syndicate in the country, police said.

The man, identified as Yuhiro Kusumoto, 44, was shot on a street in Nagata Ward around 10 a.m. He 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 Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi, which itself split off from the Yamaguchi-gumi about two years ago.

When three cars apparently belonging to the Ninkyo yamaguchi-gumi tried to enter a main street, they were forced to stop by another vehicle in an ambush and gunshots were heard, the police said.

The assailants, including the gunman believed to be in his 40s or 50s, are on the run after leaving the scene, they said.
According to the police, Yoshinori Oda, 50, leader of the new splinter group, usually uses the front car and the bodyguard was riding in the second vehicle.

At least two gunshots were heard in a residential area in Kobe, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture.

"I heard a noise like when a tire goes 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.

An elementary school nearby decided to close early for the day and directed pupils to go home in groups under teachers' supervision.