Islamist militants gunned down fleeing Japanese: local staffer
ALGIERS, Algeria -- Two of the 10 Japanese killed in the recent gas plant hostage crisis here were gunned down trying to flee as Islamic militants swept into the facility on Jan. 16, an Algerian plant worker has told the Mainichi.
The two victims were Bunshiro Naito, 44, and Rokuro Fuchida, 64, 30-year-old Abdel Hamid told the Mainichi during a Jan. 30 interview. Both men worked for companies affiliated with engineering firm JGC Corp. The Algerian has been an office employee at the plant in In Amenas, southern Algeria, since March 2012.
According to the local employee, the two Japanese workers were boarding minibuses in the residential quarter of the natural gas plant when they ran into the invading militants. The Algerian employee survived the ordeal, but said he was certain he would be killed.
The attack began at around 5:40 a.m. on Jan. 16, when the 30-year-old was preparing for work. He saw red lights outside his room in the residential quarter at about the time some 10 JGC employees were scheduled to board buses bound for their office at the plant. What was actually happening, however, was a faceoff with the militants. The driver threw the bus into reverse and tried to escape, only to be stopped when the vehicle hit a rock, according to the employee.
The passengers got off the minibus and tried to flee, but Fuchida and a Malaysian worker were shot in their tracks before they could reach the safety of a nearby building. The militants then killed Naito and a Filipino worker in their hiding place in another structure.
According to the local employee, Fuchida would always greet him with a smile, saying, "Good morning" in Arabic, whenever they got on the same bus to work. He said Japanese workers were kind, adding that he didn't know what to say about what happened to them.
The 30-year-old himself hid under his bed when the militants opened fire, locking the door and turning off the air conditioner and lights. One of the attackers tried to open the door but soon gave up and moved to the next room.
At about 9 a.m., the 30-year-old tapped out an email to his father on his mobile phone, telling him the residences were being attacked by terrorists and asking him to call police. He also asked his father not to worry his mother by telling her what was going on. Later, during the five hours of sporadic gunfire that followed the initial assault, the employee heard voices in English and Tunisian-accented Arabic saying they wouldn't harm Muslims, but he was too scared to come out.
The local employee finally fled his room on the morning of Jan. 17 when a friend called to him from just outside his window, asking him to flee together. They joined around 40 people making their escape, including a Japanese JGC worker. They saw the bodies of their murdered coworkers on the way but, desperate to get away, they ran on. The 30-year-old was dizzy and breathless by the time they reached the dormitory of a nearby Algerian state-run firm, where he was taken to a clinic.
The next morning, he and other workers made the 30 minute walk to another facility where other survivors were gathered. Along the way, he saw a vehicle that had been destroyed by an Algerian attack helicopter. He also saw six other Japanese survivors of the ordeal. He was taken to an airport on the back of a truck and was finally reunited with his wife and child at their home on Jan. 19. He had lost 12 kilograms over the three days. He told the Mainichi that he was still scared even now, and that he could have been killed had the gas plant been blown up.
An earlier interview with sources close to a hospital in In Amenas -- about 50 kilometers east of the gas plant -- has revealed that two Japanese were killed in air attacks by Algerian forces, while at least five other Japanese had been shot, though it remains unclear by whom. In total, 38 workers were killed in the hostage crisis.
毎日新聞 2013年01月31日 11時20分（最終更新 01月31日 12時46分）
EDITORIAL: Japan, China both stand to gain in tackling air pollution
Dense, toxic smog often blankets wide areas of Beijing and other Chinese cities. Air pollution in China is a serious problem.
It is also as much Japan's problem as China's as airborne pollution reaches Japan. There is another aspect to the issue. Some 140,000 Japanese now live in China, the result of close economic ties between the two countries. Their health is also at risk.
The Chinese government must act quickly. If Japan offers to help with its superior environmental technology, both countries will benefit.
While bilateral relations are still tense over the Senkaku Islands sovereignty issue, this sort of cooperation should be actively promoted. It can be a force to propel bilateral relations forward.
China has suffered some serious air pollution for quite some time.
The main problem is PM2.5, or particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. (One micrometer is one-thousandth of a millimeter.)
As the particles are minuscule, they can be inhaled deep into the respiratory organs and cause asthma, lung cancer and other diseases.
Exhaust gases from cars and factories, heating boilers and thermal power plants are the main sources of PM2.5. Air quality tends to deteriorate markedly in winter when many heating devices are used and the air becomes stagnant.
When the air quality is particularly bad, people's daily lives are affected. For instance, schools cancel outdoor activities.
Just as Japan neglected environmental protection during its pursuit of high economic growth from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, China has done the same. Many corporations are more concerned with making profits than giving consideration to the issue, and are all-too-willing to ignore environmental regulations.
However, the public's awareness of environmental issues is changing dramatically.
The Chinese government had no intention of disclosing PM2.5 levels. When the Chinese people began to show keen interest in levels disclosed independently by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the government had no choice but to release the data.
Movements against factory construction due to environmental concerns are becoming more commonplace across China.
The Chinese government now welcomes foreign investments in energy-saving and environmentally friendly ventures, having switched from its economic growth-only policy to one that focuses more on the quality of life. The Chinese Communist Party stressed "construction of eco-civilization" in its national congress held in November.
China has much to learn from Japan's experiences in fighting environmental pollution. Although the Japanese government has discontinued most of its official development assistance (ODA) programs to China, there are many things the private sector can do.
Some local governments in Japan are beginning to call for joint Japan-China ventures to expand eco-business opportunities. Though Japan needs to protect its state-of-the-art technology, ventures such as these present huge business openings to Japanese corporations. Collaboration among universities and research institutions should also prove beneficial to both countries.
The Japanese government should draw on its ODA experiences to actively support such efforts.