National

First ASDF relief flights land in Islamabad

Kyodo

The first two of six Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport planes arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon with shipments of Japanese relief supplies to Afghan refugees.

The mission is divided into three two-plane groups.

The six C-130s — carrying 315 tents, each capable of housing 10 people, 200 blankets, 400 water tanks and 75 plastic tarps — were to head back to Japan later Tuesday.

All relief items are marked with the Hinomaru flag to highlight Japan’s effort to cooperate in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Apart from the relief supplies, Tokyo also dispatched 160 ASDF and Ground Self-Defense Force members equipped with small arms to handle the shipment.

The relief mission is part of Japan’s commitment to provide noncombat assistance to the U.S., which is leading a campaign against terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden, his base of operations and Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban.

The dispatch was made in response to requests from the office of the United Nations Human High Commissioner for Refugees and is based on the 1992 law on Japan’s cooperation with U.N.-led peacekeeping missions, according to the Japanese government.

The C-130s, built for short-haul transport, flew to Pakistan following stops in Manila, Bangkok and New Delhi.

Government officials said the UNHCR office will ship relief supplies from Islamabad airport to Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar and Quetta.

According to Defense Agency officials, the military personnel aboard the C-130s had 40 handguns, bulletproof vests and masks in case of attacks but were to carry no weapons outside the aircraft at Pakistan’s request.

Unloading the relief supplies was expected to take two hours, after which the C-130s were to begin their return journey to the ASDF Komaki base in Aichi Prefecture. They are scheduled to arrive Friday.