WASHINGTON – Senior Japanese and U.S. officials have agreed to cooperate to improve the capabilities of northwest African countries to combat militant groups as part of a regionwide counterterrorism campaign.
The agreement, reached at a meeting Friday in Washington between Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae and U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, came after dozens of foreign workers, including 10 Japanese nationals, were killed by Islamic militants during last week’s hostage crisis at the Ain Amenas gas complex in Algeria.
At their meeting at the State Department, Sasae also expressed Japan’s readiness to support the African-led International Support Mission to Mali. The multilateral mission was tasked by the U.N. Security Council in December with helping the government of Mali, which shares Algeria’s southwestern border, to combat the threat posed by Islamic militant rebels.
Sasae and Sherman also exchanged views on North Korea’s recent threat to conduct another nuclear test soon, and agreed to work with China to prevent Pyongyang from carrying through on its plan.
Malaysia’s toll hits two
A Malaysian national who vanished during the hostage crisis in Algeria was confirmed dead Saturday, raising Malaysia’s death toll to two.
The Malaysian Embassy in Algiers identified the body of Tan Ping Wee from dental records and a tattoo confirmed by his family.
Tan is the last of the five Malaysians to be located following the Jan. 16 attack on the Ain Amenas gas complex in southeastern Algeria by Islamist militants. All five were working for Japanese engineering company JGC Corp. Algerian forces launched attacks over four days to rout the militants, but the crisis ended with the deaths of 37 hostages from eight countries. Twenty-nine militants were also killed.
The other Malaysian fatality was Chong Chung Ngen. Meanwhile, Malaysians Ravi Kappusamy and Lau Seek Chiang have returned home while Patrick Purait Awang reportedly volunteered to remain in Algiers to help locate Tan.
The Malaysian Foreign Ministry said it is making arrangements with JGC to have the bodies of Tan and Chong transported home as soon as possible.