National

Victims of Dhaka massacre repatriated; Japan to step up action against terrorism

Kyodo

The bodies of seven Japanese murdered by Islamic extremists in Bangladesh were repatriated Tuesday when an Air Self-Defense Force jet carrying their coffins arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

Family members accompanied the bodies aboard the plane from Dhaka three days after security forces in the city stormed the upscale restaurant where attackers tortured and executed diners.

Draped in white sheets, the caskets were unloaded and placed on cargo trolleys on the tarmac.

Several dignitaries placed bouquets on the caskets. The officials, including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Japan International Cooperation Agency head Shinichi Kitaoka and Bangladeshi Ambassador to Japan Rabab Fatima, stood before the coffins and bowed their heads in a minute of silence.

“It is extremely regrettable that precious lives were lost in a savage and heinous terrorist attack,” Kishida told reporters afterward. “I felt deep sorrow and strong indignation.”

The victims’ relatives were whisked away in a bus to a VIP facility at the airport. Kishida said many of them appeared fatigued, and that the government will provide them with psychological support.

The victims have been identified as Makoto Okamura, 32, Yuko Sakai, 42 and Rui Shimodaira, 27, who worked for Tokyo-based construction consulting company Almec Corp.; Hideki Hashimoto, 65, Nobuhiro Kurosaki, 48, and Hiroshi Tanaka, 80, who worked for Tokyo-based consulting firm Oriental Consultants Global Co.; and Koyo Ogasawara, 56, an employee of Katahira & Engineers International.

The victims were in Bangladesh as consultants on a development project for JICA.

One Japanese person survived the ordeal, although he sustained a gunshot wound. Tamaoki Watanabe was among 13 people rescued when police stormed the restaurant.

Watanabe, who is in his 40s, returned to Tokyo via a small jet early Tuesday morning.

Japanese police have formed a special team to deal with the case and began conducting postmortems on the victims to determine the precise causes of death. They will launch a murder investigation and will interview Watanabe to understand how the attack unfolded.

An aide to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko relayed a message from the couple to Kishida, expressing their sincere sorrow for the victims and deep sympathy for the survivor.

The Imperial Couple “felt heartbroken when hearing that those who worked energetically at the front line of international cooperation had died or were injured in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka,” the aide told the foreign minister, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The Cabinet met Tuesday to discuss the incident. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his ministers the nation will stand firm in the face of terrorism. He pledged to implement anti-terrorism measures in Japan.

“Our country will not give in to terrorism. We will coordinate moves with the international community to eradicate terrorism,” he said.

Ministers agreed to extend full support to the relatives of the victims.

“We will stand by the families, do everything we can to support them,” Abe told the meeting.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said in a news conference that the government plans to provide special condolence money to the relatives who lost their loved ones in the terrorist attack.

Given that the Japanese victims were working in a project for JICA, Kishida said he will swiftly convene a meeting to discuss safety measures in carrying out projects in developing countries financed with Japan’s official development assistance.

“An ODA project is joined by people from a broad range of fields, both from the private and public sectors. Many small and medium-size companies are also participating. We need to consider safety measures,” Kishida told reporters.

The meeting, comprised of Foreign Ministry and JICA officials, will aim to release its conclusions in August, Kishida said.

Twenty hostages, including nine Italians and one person each from the United States and India, were killed in the Dhaka hostage standoff.

Six attackers were shot dead and one was captured when police stormed the restaurant Saturday. Two police officers were killed, while 13 hostages were rescued.