GSDF troops undeterred by mortar attack near base

by Nao Shimoyachi

Japan is analyzing Thursday’s mortar attack in Samawah, southern Iraq, where its Ground Self-Defense Force troops are being deployed, but the incident will not affect its humanitarian mission there, government officials said Friday.

“If that was really a terrorist attack, that means a terrorist attack could occur in Samawah, too,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters Friday morning, adding that the government takes the development seriously. “There are no defensive ways to guard against something that falls from the air.”

Meanwhile, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba stressed that GSDF troops would continue their activities there.

“We are analyzing the details of the incident . . . but we recognize and have decided at this time that it will not influence the activities of the Self-Defense Forces” in Samawah, Ishiba said at a separate news conference.

“We do not know who did it or what they were aiming at,” but judging from where the two mortar shells landed and exploded, the attack was not targeted at Japan’s troops, he said.

Samawah has been deemed “relatively safe” by the government. The explosions caused by the mortar shells Thursday constituted the first artillery attack in Samawah since war broke out in Iraq.

According to the Defense Agency, citing information obtained from the Dutch military, which is in charge of security in Samawah, an object that appeared to be a hand-made bomb using mortar shells was found in the city Thursday morning.

The bomb consisted of seven tubes, five of which still contained shells. Whether the other two initially had shells and whether they were involved in Thursday’s attack is unknown, the agency said.

An officer at the Ground Staff Office said the attack poses a threat to the GSDF camp, which cannot be moved. “It could be a major turning point,” said the officer, who asked not be named.

He said the GSDF will continue taking measures to minimize the damage and keep the layout of the camp secret so attackers won’t be able to target tents containing soldiers.

Information from Kyodo added