National

One Japanese national killed, four others injured as Sri Lanka attacks rock expat community

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

One Japanese national was killed and four others injured in terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday. The attacks left at least 290 dead and more than 500 injured.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that Tokyo “never tolerates” such violence, and is “determined to combat terrorism” by cooperating with the Sri Lankan government and internationally.

The dead Japanese national was a woman identified as Kaori Takahashi, a local resident whose age was not immediately known, according to a Kyodo News report quoting unnamed government sources. One of the four injured was reportedly a worker at the Japanese Embassy in Colombo, and another was Kazukiyo Yajima of telecom carrier KDDI Corp., according to Kyodo News.

A spokesperson for KDDI Corp. confirmed to The Japan Times that one of their workers was injured at a local hotel and was hospitalized as of Monday afternoon. He was able to speak and walk despite his injury, the spokesperson said.

The worker had been visiting Sri Lanka together with 10 other KDDI workers on a business trip.

Churches, luxury hotels and other sites were hit by explosions in the nine bombings.

At least 35 foreigners are counted among the dead, including Takahashi, according to Kyodo News.

Local police have reportedly arrested 13 suspects in connection with Sunday’s bombings.

Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene described the blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, although there was no immediate declaration of responsibility, according to AP.

During the news conference in Tokyo, Suga declined to identify any of the five Japanese victims, saying the government had yet to gain the consent of their families.

“It is extremely regrettable to see such serious damage” to the local Japanese community in Sri Lanka, Suga said.

“We feel a strong sense of indignation,” he said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, a total of 767 Japanese were living in Sri Lanka as of October 2017, 365 of whom reside in Colombo.

The Japanese population there is much smaller than that of many other Asian cities. In Sri Lanka, there were 89 offices belonging to Japanese firms as of October 2017 — placing the nation 50th among all countries where Japanese companies have offices.

Japan’s government has dispatched a special unit to Sri Lanka to gather information related to the victims and attackers from local investigative authorities, according to Suga.

The bombings could deal a blow to the country’s tourism industry, which had been recovering following the end of a 26-year-long civil war in 2009.

Major Japanese travel agency JTB Corp. said it had confirmed by Sunday night the safety of all tourists staying in Sri Lanka via its tours. The company said it was weighing whether to proceed with upcoming tours during the 10-day Golden Week holiday that begins this Saturday.

The Tokyo office of Sri Lankan travel agency Yathra Travels Ltd. has already seen several cancellations among the roughly 100 people who had signed up for tours during the holiday period, an agency official said. The company said it is considering changing itineraries to ensure the safety of tourists.

Information from Kyodo added