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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Explosion scare cranks up GSDF security concerns


Staff writer

Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono said Friday he has ordered Ground Self-Defense Force troops stationed in southern Iraq to step up security in the wake of an explosion that damaged the windshield of a GSDF vehicle.

Ono told reporters he has instructed the GSDF to increase the number of security personnel present when GSDF troops engage in humanitarian activities outside the GSDF camp in Samawah.

The explosion took place 5 km to 6 km east of the the camp. The unit was heading toward a ceremony to mark the opening of a road that has been completed under an official development assistance project carried out by the Japanese government.

The GSDF suspended its activities Friday and was scheduled to decide whether to resume its mission after assessing security conditions.

The safety of GSDF personnel is a key factor in Japan's continued participation in the U.S.-led multinational effort to reconstruct Iraq.

Japanese troops are only allowed to be dispatched to "noncombat areas" for humanitarian and reconstruction activities.

Their mission will continue until December.

If the security situation deteriorates in the area, calls to withdraw the GSDF are likely to increase at home.

On Friday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Cabinet ministers not to comment on the explosion on the basis of assumptions.



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The Japan Times

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