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9 Japanese killed in Algeria hostage crisis, gov't says

In this image taken from television, Japanese Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Minoru Kiuchi, right, and Koichi Kawana, president of Japanese engineering firm JGC Corporation, bow toward the Ain Amenas gas facility a day after special forces stormed the plant to end a four-day siege, in Algeria, Sunday. AP  


Nine Japanese nationals were killed during a four-day siege at a gas plant in Algeria, where the number of hostages killed had already reached at least 48, a Japanese government source said on Monday.
“We’ve received information from the Algerian government that nine Japanese are dead,” the official, who declined to be identified pending the official announcement, told Reuters.
The Japanese government and engineering firm JGC Corp, which had several dozen employees working at the plant, have so far said only that 10 Japanese workers remained unaccounted for. Neither would confirm media reports of casualties.
One Japanese hostage who narrowly survived the armed attack on an Algerian gas plant said he was sure he would die after seeing two colleagues shot dead in front of him, a report said Monday.
The unnamed man told colleagues how Islamist gunmen had dragged him from his barricaded room, handcuffed him and executed two hostages standing nearby.
In a chilling account of his escape, published Monday in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, the hostage told colleagues he had been aboard a bus when it was attacked by a group of heavily-armed Islamists in the Sahara desert early Wednesday.
Seven Japanese are known to have survived the three-day assault, which ended in a bloodbath on Saturday—all of them connected to JGC.
The man said he was leaving a lodging house with other foreign workers in a convoy of buses when militants first swooped.
As the vehicle in front was hit by a hail of bullets, the driver of his bus slammed the vehicle into reverse and tried to flee.
But a wheel snapped off, stranding the bus and forcing passengers to run through the desert and seek refuge at the workers’ formerly-secure lodging house.
The man barricaded himself in his room and cowered with the lights off, as gunmen began their rampage through the compound.
But a short time later, the door splintered open as militants shot the lock apart and burst in, plucking the frightened man from his hiding place and clamping handcuffs on him.
He was frogmarched to a bright room with other foreign hostages where his captors began speaking Arabic with some of his Algerian colleagues.
The next thing he knew someone opened fire and two people slumped to the floor, dead, in front of him. “I was prepared to die,” JGC spokesman Takeshi Endo quoted the employee as saying.
The bodies of other foreigners lay on the ground as he and a Filipino colleague were bundled into a vehicle and driven off towards the gas plant.
Without warning the vehicle was sprayed with bullets, which pierced the windshield and forced the prisoners to duck down as low as possible to avoid being shot.
As their captors abandoned the vehicle, the prisoners were left alone, not knowing who had opened fire.
In the hours that followed, the Japanese survivor hid under a truck, trying to stay away from the gun battle that raged around him. As bullets flew past he saw a bus full of hostages—some wearing JGC uniforms—drive past.
He watched with horror as the vehicle came under attack, but said he had no idea of the fate of those on board.
After nightfall, when the shooting had stopped he began trudging through the desert, walking for an hour before he came across Algerian soldiers and safety.
Earlier Monday, chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters vice foreign minister Minoru Kiuchi had arrived at an airport near the gas facility that was over-run by Islamist gunmen last week.
He said Kiuchi would go into the complex and to a hospital in the town of In Amenas in an effort to determine what had happened.
Suga said those known to have made it to safety would be flown back to Japan on a government aircraft.


Posted by BCJP on Monday, January 21, 2013. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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