The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 19, 2013)
Govt must deal sternly with Islamic extremists' terrorism
邦人人質事件 イスラム過激派の許せぬテロ(1月18日付・読売社説)

In a despicable act of terrorism, a group of Islamist extremists seized a natural gas complex in Ain Amenas in eastern Algeria on Wednesday and took a large number of foreign hostages, including Japanese and U.S. nationals.

The Japanese taken hostage are apparently employees of or related to JGC Corp., a Yokohama-based plant manufacturer known as Nikki in Japanese. Details about their safety remain unknown.

The Algerian military launched a military attack aimed at rescuing the hostages, but there are reports many of them may have been killed.

This is an extremely worrying situation.

It is a matter of course for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on a visit to Hanoi, to strongly condemn the hostage-taking incident, saying it "can never be tolerated."

Japan and other countries involved in the hostage crisis must work together and cooperate with the Algerian government to rescue the hostages.

The identity of the hostage-takers has not been fully confirmed. However, they claim their action is in retaliation for the French military's intervention in neighboring Mali and they are demanding French troops cease military operations.


Influx of insurgents into Mali

The Mali government has been undermined since a coup d'etat last year by rebels in the country's military. Taking advantage of this situation, armed Islamist extremists streamed into Mali from Algeria and seized control of Mali's northern region. Foreigners have been frequently abducted in Mali, making the country's security situation even more precarious.

In December, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution in response to requests from the Malian government, authorizing military intervention by the country's neighbors.

It was perhaps inevitable that France, Mali's former colonial power, found it necessary to launch military operations in that country to defeat the armed Islamist forces. Should the stability of North Africa become even more convulsive because of the rampant militancy of the armed extremists, the region's already serious situation could deteriorate.

The hostage crisis is a major challenge for Abe's administration. The capability of the Abe government, which has defined the task of crisis management as one of its three policy pillars alongside resuscitation of the economy and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, is now being tested.

The initial government response to the hostage crisis was swift.


Beef up intl cooperation

In a telephone call to his Algerian counterpart after the crisis began, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida urged that every possible effort should be made to ensure the safety of the hostages. The government lost no time in deciding to send Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi, who was on a tour of European nations, to Algeria.

The government also set up a countermeasures task force comprising ministers concerned to deal with the crisis. In the task force's first session, it confirmed a policy of "making people's lives the top priority."

In another conversation over the phone, Abe and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on the need for the two countries to cooperate closely in resolving the crisis.

Eradicating terrorism cannot be achieved without strengthening the cooperation of the international community to resolutely deal with terrorist acts.

Not only in Algeria but also in other countries in the Middle East and Africa, terrorists frequently target foreign nationals.

The Foreign Ministry should exert every effort to ensure the safety of Japanese in these areas by remaining in close contact with the United States and other countries so they can exchange pertinent information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2013)
(2013年1月18日02時01分  読売新聞)