Japanese special forces are off to rescue hostages

The destiny of the three Japanese hostages captured in Iraq (the teacher, the humanitarian mission employee and the reporter) is gruesome.
April 10 is the deadline given by the hostage-takers to Japanese authorities. The militants are threatening to kill hostages after this date. Meanwhile, Japanese government refuses to fulfill the militants’ demand – to withdraw the several hundred Japanese troops from Iraq.

”No way we can give up to the foul threats of the terrorists”, said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He said it is necessary to think about the hostages’ safety and the measures to release them.

The relatives of the hostages are indignant with the officials’ statements. On April 9 the relatives organized the demonstration near the government building, they are demanding to withdraw the troops from Iraq. The government sent a group of special forces to release the hostages. There is no information on the number of the servicemen in the special forces unit and their equipment. This is the same unit which rescued the group of Japanese architectures in Kyrgyzstan in 1999.

Unidentified militants are threatening to kill the hostages in Japan does not withdraw its troops from Iraq within three days. An Arabic TV Channel broadcast the image of the blindfolded hostages. “We are offering you two ways to solve the problem – either you withdraw the troops from Iraq, or we burn the hostages alive. Time count starts after broadcasting the footage”, said the militants.

The relatives of the 18-year old Japanese reporter who is being held hostage said in an interview that they were going to ask Japanese government to withdraw the unit of Japanese self-defense forces from Iraq, so that their son would be able to return home safely”.

Meanwhile, the USA expressed hope that the Japanese forces would remain in Iraq, despite the death threats to the hostages. “We welcome the decision of Japanese government not to leave Iraq. We cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us and influence our actions”, said the US high-ranking official. He thinks that the outbursts of violence, attacks and capturing hostages are becoming more frequent as June 30 is approaching – the date when the coalition forces plan to hand the power to Iraqi government.

The Ioimuri newspaper wrote that the issue of the hostages would probably become one of the key topics of the negotiations between US Vice President Dick Cheney and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on April 12. According to the newspaper, the US Vice President already discussed this incident with US Ambassador in Japan Howard Baker.

Foreign Ministry of Great Britain confirmed the information on the disappearance the 37-year old British citizen, the employee of the company on cleaning clothes. He was probably kidnapped after he left in the vehicle the US Air Base he was working for.

On April 9 Foreign Minister of Australia Alexander Downer expressed concerns that the Australian employees of humanitarian mission could be captured by Iraqi militants as well. The Minister said he possessed no exact information on this. “In any case, we would never abandon our policy, even if our people are imprisoned. We want our enemies to know this”.

Totally, several foreigners – three Japanese, a Canadian, an Israeli citizen of Arabic origin and a Palestinian – have been kidnapped in Iraq.

The group of the 7 South Korean preachers was kidnapped on April 8, when they were driving to Baghdad from Jordan border. Luckily, the Koreans were released several hours later. One of them believes that the combatants who captured them, captured the Japanese as well. When the South Korean citizen and the other six his fellow-countrymen were taken in the vehicle by the militants, they saw the Japanese in the same vehicle. Later the terrorists made the Japanese to get out of the vehicle, burned their luggage and took them somewhere. The freed Korean said that the militants had normal attitude to him and his companions. The terrorists were asking the Koreans if they were in the CIA or not. The Iraqi group which captured the hostages, called itself “Saraya al-Mojahedin” (Mojahedin  Platoon).
Despite the incident, the government of South Korea is still firm in its intentions to deploy 3,500 more troops in Iraq.

Svetlana Khazova

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova