Slain JGC exec asked envoy to block raid

Kyodo

One of the 10 Japanese killed in the hostage crisis in Algeria last month, a top adviser of JGC Corp., tried to ask the Japanese ambassador to help talk the Algerian military into refraining from attacking the Islamist terrorists, sources close to him said Wednesday.

Tadanori Aratani, 66, a former JGC vice president, made the request in a telephone conversation with the engineering firm’s office in Algiers shortly after the militants stormed the Ain Amenas gas plant and took the workers hostage Jan. 16.

“We’ll be taken to the plant soon. I want you to ask the Algerian military, through the Japanese ambassador (to Algeria), not to begin an operation while we’re moving,” Aratani was quoted as saying. He was in a residential area at the time.

Aratani is believed to have made the call around 9 a.m. when helicopters of the Algerian military were flying over the premises. He also said the terrorists who took the hostages spoke English, according to the sources.

About half an hour later, Aratani told his colleagues, “We’ve arrived (at the plant).” It was his last contact.

The Japanese Embassy in Algiers later told JGC that it asked the Algerian forces to refrain from launching an offensive at the gas plant.

Despite the request, Algerian forces launched the offensive and the crisis ended a few days later. The Algerian government announced the deaths of 37 hostages from eight countries and 29 militants. The 10 Japanese killed and seven Japanese survivors were all JGC employees.

The Algiers office of the Yokohama-based firm learned of the hostage-taking 45 minutes after it began about 5 a.m. Jan. 16 via a call made by one of the seven survivors, who was in the residential district of the gas plant.