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Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013

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Staying on message: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (left) confers with an aide during a news conference Friday after the Cabinet met on the Algerian hostage crisis. AFP-JIJI

Seven Japanese confirmed safe but fate of 10 others unknown in Algeria hostage situation: JGC


Staff writer

Amid conflicting reports Friday about casualties among foreigners who were taken hostage at a natural gas complex in Algeria, the government and JGC Corp. confirmed the safety of seven Japanese workers but said 10 others were still missing.

A senior official said one of the Japanese workers from the Yokohama-based plant-engineering firm who were confirmed safe sustained some wounds, but they were not serious.

At first three JGC workers were confirmed safe. Then on Friday evening, a company spokesman told reporters the JGC office in Algiers had confirmed that four more were safe.

JGC also said it has received unconfirmed information that the total number of hostages is 78, including the 17 Japanese.

The government demanded that Algeria disclose information on the whereabouts of the 14 missing Japanese.

After the crisis started Wednesday, Japan had repeatedly asked Algeria not to launch any military operation that could risk the lives of the hostages, but the Algerian army reportedly attacked the plant with helicopters and special forces Thursday night, and media reports said some people, including foreign hostages, were killed.

"Some information says there were some (fatal) victims. In that sense, it's regrettable the Algerian army took this action," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday morning.

No information about the safety of the Japanese hostages had been provided at that point by the Algerian government or army, Suga said.

The ambassadors of Japan, Britain, the United States and other countries were set to jointly request that the Algerian government release information on the whereabouts of their citizens, Suga said.

He said the Algerian government gave no advance notice to Japan about launching the military operation.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to cut short his visit to Indonesia and planned to arrive back in Tokyo early Saturday.

He had planned to deliver a key diplomatic speech in Jakarta announcing his "Abe doctrine" for Asia and not return to Japan until Saturday evening.

Information from Kyodo added



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