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Abe confirms cooperation with Britain over Algeria hostage crisis

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and British Premier David Cameron confirmed their cooperation over the ongoing Algeria hostage crisis during a telephone conversation Saturday evening.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Abe said he and Cameron shared their concern that the situation remains “unpredictable” and that many people, including Japanese and British nationals, have become victims.

“We confirmed that Britain and Japan will continue to cooperate in the fight against terrorism,” Abe said, adding the two countries will closely collaborate by exchanging information about the unfolding events.

He also said that Cameron conveyed some details about the whereabouts of the Japanese nationals taken captive Wednesday at a natural gas complex deep in the Sahara by Islamist militants, but declined to disclose any facts.

“I cannot reveal the content of (the conversation),” Abe told reporters.

Given conflicting reports about the situation, Japan, along with such countries as the United States, Britain and France, asked the Algerian government Friday to swiftly provide them with information about the hostages.

Mauritania’s ANI news agency, which the Islamists appear to be using to make statements, reported that the militant group is still holding seven hostages, including one Japanese national, following its attack on the gas plant in southeastern Algeria.

The government has been unable to gather more details about the current situation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a news conference Saturday.

A total of 17 Japanese nationals were working at the plant for Yokohama-based engineering firm JGC Corp. when the militants seized the plant. There were also 61 other people working for the company at the complex at the time.

JGC said seven Japanese staff and 10 people of other nationalities have so far been confirmed as safe. But a total of 61 staff — including 10 Japanese — remain unaccounted for, according to the company. JGC President Koichi Kawana and other senior officials had departed for Algeria by early Saturday.

One Japanese national was treated at a hospital Friday in the municipality of Ain Amenas, where the plant is located, and transported to the capital, Algiers, a reporter for Algerian television said.

It is not yet known if that person is among the seven hostages confirmed as safe. The militant group is still holding hostages at the complex and Algerian troops are continuing the rescue operation, according to local reports.