Foreign Minister Yohei Kono on Monday afternoon thanked the Turkish government for securing the release of all the hostages detained by a group of gunmen at a hotel in Istanbul, including an unknown number of Japanese.
“I would like to thank the Turkish government for their efforts in leading to an early release of all the hostages,” Kono told reporters in Tokyo.
It was not immediately known how many of some 120 hostages released were Japanese.
The Foreign Ministry said late Monday afternoon there were at least 23 Japanese, including hotel employees, at the hotel when 20 gunmen, claiming to be supporters of Chechnya, stormed the luxury hotel in Istanbul late Sunday night.
The ministry said it believes none of them were hurt by the gunmen.
Kono said earlier Monday that as many as 10 Japanese may have been taken hostage. Ministry sources said these include an employee of Mitsubishi Corp., an employee of Nippon Steel Corp. and possibly three tourists.
Major Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. also said four of its employees were among the people released after the gunmen surrendered to authorities.
The five-star hotel is a popular spot among Japanese tourists and business executives.
Overlooking the Bosporus and situated in central Istanbul, the 600-room Swissotel also employs Japanese. It has a main banquet hall on the fifth floor with a 1,000-person capacity and three smaller ones that can each hold 100 people.
On Monday morning, 22 armed men released all of their captives and surrendered, the Japanese Consulate General in Istanbul said.
The gunmen had apparently staged the attack to protest Russian military campaigns in Chechnya.
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