• Kyodo

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The Air Self-Defense Force airlifted humanitarian supplies and goods Wednesday into Iraq on its first flight under Japan’s Iraq reconstruction mission, ASDF officials said.

An ASDF C-130 transport plane flew from Kuwait to an airport near the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, where Ground Self-Defense Force troops are stationed in their mission to rebuild local infrastructure, provide drinking water and offer medical services.

Reflecting Japan’s policy to emphasize humanitarian assistance, the 2 tons of cargo included medical equipment and soccer balls.

After returning to Kuwait, Col. Atsuyuki Nitta told reporters he was relieved the flight was successful and incident-free. He said he did not believe any future cargo shipped by the ASDF would include arms or ammunition.

The ASDF will arrange a schedule for the next operation, cargo and personnel after consulting with the U.S. Air Force’s Middle East air command center in Qatar.

The ASDF planes might transport U.S. military personnel in the future, according to sources close to the operation.

There are 280 ASDF personnel assigned to the Iraq support mission, mainly operating in Kuwait and Qatar.

About 550 GSDF troops are to be be deployed in Samawah by late March.

Evacuation urged

The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday urged Japanese nationals in Iraq to leave the country.

It advised those who remain to stay alert. Multiple bombings occurred there Tuesday, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds of others.

“In Iraq, civilians and private-sector facilities have been targeted by terrorists, and it is possible that Japanese nationals and Japanese facilities could also be targeted,” the ministry said in a travel advisory.

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