Algerians grill more JGC locals over attack

Kyodo, JIJI, AFP-JIJI

Algerian security officials have questioned about 20 local employees of Japanese firm JGC Corp. over last week’s deadly hostage crisis in Algeria, one of the company’s Algerian employees said Tuesday.

They were not detained and appear to have been questioned about possible links to the Islamic militant group behind last week’s attack on a natural gas complex in the country’s southeast, an employee said.

The officials suspect insiders were involved in the attack. There have also been reports stating that 11 people at the complex are being grilled, including two workers in the kitchen of a JGC facility and four employed by energy giant BP PLC.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has reconfirmed the identities and transferred the corpses of seven Japanese who were killed in the hostage crisis to the Algerian capital of Algiers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.

An Air Self-Defense Force plane is slated to return to Japan Thursday afternoon at the earliest with the bodies of the seven victims and seven survivors.

Late Tuesday, Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi asked the Algerian interior minister for aid in ascertaining the whereabouts of three missing Japanese, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

In talks in Algeria with the minister, Daho Ould Kabila, Kiuchi, who is heading Japan’s emergency operations there, also requested cooperation in collecting belongings and gathering information on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the seven Japanese during the siege.

One of the seven dead has been identified by kin as Rokuro Fuchida, 64, a JGC expatriate in Algeria. Neither the Japanese government nor JGC has released the names of those killed.

Fuchida, an engineer with the firm, believed his work in Algeria was done last year when he returned to Japan to celebrate New Year’s with friends and family, an Asahi Shimbun report said.

A relative told the newspaper that Fuchida was called back to Algeria to fix a glitch on a project just days before the militants began their rampage on Jan. 16.