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Friday, Aug. 29, 2008

Slaying in Afghanistan will not deter Japan's antiterror mission

Staff writer

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura voiced anger Thursday over the kidnapping and killing of aid worker Kazuya Ito in Afghanistan.

"I am strongly indignant over this inhuman act," Machimura told a news conference. "At the same time, I also feel that we must honor Ito's will and I believe Japan must make various efforts as a 'peace-fostering nation.' "

According to the Foreign Ministry, Ito's body was transported out of Jalalabad on an Afghan military helicopter Thursday morning and arrived at Kabul around noon local time. Although the details had not been decided, Machimura said the body would be sent to Japan sometime after Friday.

As of Thursday morning, Machimura said it was still unknown who was responsible for the slaying, the details of the killing or whether any demands had been made.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, the extremist Muslim force that controlled Afghanistan in the previous regime, claimed it was involved in the kidnapping.

Ito, 31, had been working in Afghanistan on agricultural projects as a member of the Japan-based nongovernmental organization Peshawar-kai.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Thursday expressing condolences to Ito's family and condemned "the kidnapping and killing of a Japanese citizen in eastern Afghanistan by terrorists."

"This criminal act is against all human and Afghan values as well as internationally accepted principles," the statement said. "This despicable act is a clear indication that terrorists desire to prevent Afghanistan from ensuring peace and stability for its citizens."

Machimura said Japanese aid to Afghanistan is based on two pillars — the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean and restoration of the Afghan people's livelihood.

The Liberal Democratic Party aims to pass a bill during the upcoming extraordinary Diet session to enable the MSDF to continue refueling multinational warships engaged in counterterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan. But the opposition parties, which control the Upper House, are set to battle the extension.

"There is no mistake that (the MSDF activities), while indirectly, have been serving the purpose of turning the Indian Ocean — an important route for Japan (to import) oil — from a sea of terrorism to a sea of peace," Machimura said. "If Japan were to drop out of the line of battle in the war against terrorism, it would be going head on against the movement of international society."

At the same time, he said it is necessary for the government to hold discussions on future activities with NGOs engaged in the restoration of Afghanistan.

The government must also consider what to do about staff from the government-affiliated Japan International Cooperation Agency who have been sent to Afghanistan, but there is no immediate intention to withdraw or reduce their number, Machimura said.

"I think that now, more than ever, the Japanese public has felt the importance of Japan's commitment to be actively involved in the war against terrorism because of the sacrifice of (Ito's) precious life," he said.

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The Japan Times

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