ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Was military action only way to end Algerian siege?
Publication Date : 24-01-2013
The Algerian hostage crisis has ended with tragic consequences.
Seven Japanese, including employees of plant engineering and manufacturing firm JGC Corp., were confirmed to have been killed during an attack on an Algerian natural gas plant by a group of Islamist militants.
We condemn the criminal group for targeting "corporate warriors" diligently working in a foreign country under severe conditions.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced the terrorist attack Tuesday, saying: "It's extremely heartbreaking. We'll never tolerate terrorism." We agree entirely.
The siege was unusual in that more than 30 heavily armed terrorists held hostage scores of people from several countries, including Japan, Britain and the United States.
An investigation must be conducted urgently to get to the bottom of this incident. Suspicion has arisen that the assailants had collaborators at the plant who provided information and guidance.
At a news conference Monday, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said 37 foreigners died and 29 militants were killed in the siege.
Hostages' lives not priority?
The Algerian military operation to bring the situation under control as soon as possible has been criticised for not giving enough consideration to the hostages' lives. Sellal stood by the decision to launch the assault by stressing his government's stance of not yielding to terrorism. His statement also reflects the domestic situation in which long years of civil war killed as many as 150,000 people in Algeria.
Sellal said launching the military operation soon after the siege started was necessary because the militants had attempted to flee Algeria with the hostages and planted explosives in a bid to blow up the gas complex.
If the militants had been allowed to get away with their crimes, it could lead to second and third terrorist attacks. The Algerian government apparently felt it had no alternative but to resort to the use of force.
Any unilateral attack on economic activity in a civilised society must be met with return fire.
British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that his government was not told of the military operation in advance. But after the siege ended, he showed a degree of understanding of the early Algerian military operation by saying resolving the crisis would be a very difficult mission for security forces of any country.
Lessons for Japan
The Abe administration has dispatched a government-chartered aircraft to Algeria to bring home survivors and the victims' bodies. We also urge the government to quickly confirm what happened to three Japanese who remain unaccounted for.
It is important that the Algerian government be asked to give detailed explanations on the circumstances under which the military operation was conducted, and how the Japanese died.
The crisis has brought problems with the Japanese government's crisis management system to the surface.
Like the United States and European countries also affected by the siege, Japan only obtained scant snippets of information while the Algerian forces conducted the military operation.
Japan has 49 uniformed defence attaches stationed overseas, including only two in Africa--one in Egypt and one in Sudan. The number of such attaches in Africa must be steadily increased.
To protect Japanese firms operating in troubled regions, specialists with expertise on these areas and antiterrorism measures should be trained, and the nation's information-gathering and analysing capabilities strengthened.