TOKYO, Jan 24, 2013 (AFP) -
TOKYO, Jan 24, 2013 (AFP) –
A plane bringing home the bodies of Japanese killed in the gas plant siege left Algeria Thursday, Tokyo said, as it was reported a senior executive of the firm employing many of the dead was still unaccounted for.
The government announced late Wednesday that two more victims had been identified, taking Japan’s confirmed loss in the desert to nine people, the highest of any of the nations involved and its worst terror toll since 9/11.
“The prime minister instructed the government to do its best to confirm the fate of the final missing person,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Japanese government officials dispatched to Algeria will resume their efforts early Thursday, including visiting morgues, he said.
“It could take some time as (the bodies) were badly damaged. We are carrying out our confirmation work carefully.”
Local media identified the final unaccounted for Japanese national as Tadanori Aratani, 66, a former vice president and the supreme adviser to plant engineering firm JGC, which was building the facility at In Amenas.
A company spokesman has refused to confirm the reports.
Television footage showed people pressing their hands together and bowing to a Buddhist cenotaph on a temporary altar at the company’s headquarters in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo.
An elegantly handwritten prayer for those who lost their lives was inscribed on the wooden tablet, around which lay bouquets of white flowers.
The plane bringing back the bodies of the victims will also carry seven survivors of the siege, some of whom had the grisly task of identifying dead colleagues.
It was due to land at Tokyo’s Haneda airport early Friday. Seventeen Japanese were at the facility in Algeria’s remote east when jihadists struck on Wednesday last week at the start of a four-day siege that left dozens of foreigners dead.
Japan was among the more forthright of nations as the hostage crisis unfolded, summoning the Algerian ambassador to demand answers on the situation and press for restraint from the army.
World capitals have since rowed back from comments that may have been seen as overly critical in Algiers, and have repeatedly stressed that the hostage takers bear full responsibility for the desert outrage.