POSTED: 2:45 a.m. HST, Jan 24, 2013
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese officials have found the body of the last Japanese citizen who went missing during a hostage crisis last week in Algeria, the government confirmed late Thursday, bringing the country's death toll to 10.
The victims worked for a Japanese engineering company, JGC Corp., at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert. Seven other Japanese workers for the company survived the hostage-taking.
Islamist militants seized the gas field and held scores of foreigners from a number of countries hostage for four days until Algerian special forces stormed the plant Saturday. Algeria's prime minister has said that at least 37 hostages and 29 militants were killed.
Seven other Japanese citizens had been confirmed dead earlier this week. Japanese diplomats, police and company officials continued their effort to find the three who remained unaccounted for, and they identified two of them on Wednesday among a group of unidentified victims at a morgue in Algiers. The effort continued Thursday to find the last victim.
The 10th victim is reportedly JGC's former vice-president Tadanori Aratani, 66, who was to meet officials of his company's British partner, BP, the day of the hostage crisis.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced that all 10 Japanese who had been unaccounted for were now confirmed dead.
"I represent the government to convey the deepest condolences to their families and other related people," he told an emergency news conference Thursday.
"Using violence is not forgivable whatever the cause," he said late Wednesday. "We strongly condemn terrorist activities."
"It is extremely regrettable," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Thursday.
A government airplane carrying the seven survivors and nine bodies is scheduled to return to Japan as early as Friday morning.
Mitsunobu Fuchida arrived at Tokyo's Haneda airport Thursday morning to await the return of the body of his younger brother Rokuro, 64.
"I just want to see him. I want to see him quickly," he said.
The mother of contract worker Bunshiro Naito, 44, whose body was identified Wednesday, said her son went to Algeria to contribute to people who needed him.
"I just want to praise him for his hard work, and say ‘Thank you for being my child,"' she told a televised interview with Japan's NHK public TV. Naito was to return to Japan on Friday to celebrate his father's birthday, NHK said.
Authorities said they were unable to confirm the status of four foreign employees of JGC.
AP writer Malcolm Foster contributed to the report.