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The Journal Gazette

Monday, January 21, 2013 11:20 am

Japan confirms 7 Japanese dead in Algeria crisis

The Associated Press

Seven Japanese workers are confirmed to have died during a hostage crisis at an Algerian oil field and three others remain missing, Japan's prime minister said Monday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a government crisis taskforce that he was "speechless" that innocent people had been killed.

"The use of force by terrorists against innocent citizens is totally unforgivable. We strongly condemn it," he said.

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.

JGC spokesman Takeshi Endo confirmed the deaths. "The loss of many of our talented colleagues is my greatest sorrow," he said, his voice trembling.

"These people were working hard for the gas development project in Algeria," chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a late-night news conference. "It's a great loss and a deep sadness for our country."

Abe said he was informed of the deaths by Japanese officials who traveled to Algeria to investigate the status of the Japanese.

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 on Saturday.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said Monday that 37 foreign hostages and 29 Islamist militants had been killed.

Suga said the Japanese government had repeatedly urged Sellal to prioritize the lives of the hostages during the crisis, and regretted that Japanese citizens had nevertheless died.

He said the government was arranging the repatriation of the victims' remains and was doing its utmost to locate the three missing workers.