Hostage-takers targeted Japanese


Islamic militants searched for Japanese workers and gunned some down in the hostage crisis earlier in Algeria last month, an Algerian company official at the site said Thursday.

The Algerian government opened to the media the Ain Amenas gas complex, the site of the incident that left about 40 foreign nationals, including 10 Japanese, dead. It was the first time for the Japanese media to enter the gas plant in Algeria’s southeast since the four-day crisis began Jan. 16.

According to the official of Algeria’s state-run oil firm, hostage-takers Jan. 16 searched accommodations for those working for Japanese plant engineering company JGC Corp. one by one and seized Japanese workers as soon as they found any.

The official, who was also held hostage, said he saw three Japanese and two Filipinos shot as they tried to flee. The official, who supervised Algerian workers at the plant, on the next day confirmed the identities of the three dead Japanese from their name badges.

The plant was on full alert, with a large number of armored vehicles in view. Damage was seen to buildings caused by the firefight between the Algerian military and Islamic militants. In the residential area, a hole some 40 cm long and 25 cm wide in a building wall appeared to have been made by a mortar. Other walls of the building had bullet holes.

Media representatives were not given freedom to roam the premises. When journalists tried to head off on their own, they were stopped by security staff.