Fate of 7 Japanese hostages still unknown
Of the eight Japanese citizens who were taken hostage by gunmen at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, one was rescued, a top official said in Tokyo today.
Japan was unable to contact the seven, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.
The eight are employees of private firms engaged in a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) construction project.
Japanese officials in Dhaka had met with the man, whose name is being withheld.
JICA had earlier said it was unable to contact eight Japanese workers in the country as of Saturday afternoon and was working to confirm their locations.
Separately, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina over phone. She told Abe that 13 people were rescued including three foreigners, Hagiuda said.
The AP reported that the Islamic State group’s Amaq News Agency said “Islamic State commandos” had carried out the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi activities online. The claim could not be independently confirmed.
The restaurant where the gunmen had been holed up is located near the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka. According to the Japanese Embassy, 906 Japanese were living in Bangladesh as of October 2015.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a hastily gathered news conference earlier Saturday that Japanese may have been among the hostages.
Suga said the government was making “utmost efforts” to gather information on the situation, adding that Tokyo would dispatch to Dhaka staffers from a government team in charge of gathering information on international terrorism.
The same unit was dispatched when a hostage crisis erupted in Algeria in 2013. Thirty-nine hostages — including 10 Japanese — were killed during the siege on Islamist militants who had taken over a gas plant in the country.
Later Saturday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, saying he had ordered his staff to make saving lives “a top priority.” Abe had earlier ordered his staff to gather information and cancelled his scheduled trip to Hokkaido, part of a campaign blitz for the July 10 Upper House election.