National

Shell lands in Iraq GSDF camp; four others miss

Kyodo

Several loud explosions were heard Monday night near the Ground Self-Defense Force camp in Iraq, provincial police said.

Officials said a mortar round apparently flew over the base and exploded on the opposite side.

The troops found indications that one shell landed in the GSDF camp and four others fell in the vicinity, Defense Agency officials said Tuesday in Tokyo.

There have been no reports of injuries or damage so far, Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono said. The explosions were heard shortly after 11 p.m. Monday local time.

“We are still investigating the facts . . . but there is no cause for concern” over Japan’s continued designation of Samawah as a “noncombat” zone and over the safety of its troops,” Ono said.

Security in the area remains relatively safe compared with other areas (in Iraq), but given the emergence of these kinds of cases recently in Samawah, we must take extra care,” he said.

Under a special law that paved way for the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq, the activities of GSDF personnel are limited to what Japan deems “noncombat” zones.

Suspecting the mortar may have been targeted at the camp, Al-Muthanna provincial police are searching to see if any shell landed nearby, local police sources said.

Flares were also seen arcing toward the camp, they said, adding that they were looking for a car that was apparently fleeing northeast of the camp.

Ono said the GSDF will continue to refrain from engaging in humanitarian aid activities outside the camp, including rebuilding roads and schools and supplying clean water to residents.

Such activities have been suspended since a roadside explosion June 23 slightly damaged a GSDF vehicle in a convoy.

The vehicle sustained a cracked windshield from the roadside bomb planted 5 to 6 km east of the camp.

Among other incidents, about 100 Iraqi youths supporting the Japanese troops canceled a visit to the camp Sunday after receiving a letter of unknown origin telling them they would face dire consequences if they made the trip.

On June 28, a clash between unemployed people and police in Samawah resulted in the death of two people.