Japan has said it would give $120-million in aid to the troubled Sahel region after ten Japanese nationals were killed in an Algerian hostage crisis.
A four-day stand-off at a gas plant in the Saharan desert ended in bloodshed earlier this month when Algerian commandos stormed the plant, with some reports talking of summary executions of hostages in the final firefight.
Of the at least 37 foreigners known to have died, Japan's toll of 10 was the highest of any country whose nationals were caught up in the jihadist siege.
"The Japanese government plans to give an additional $120-million to help stabilise Mali and the Sahel region," Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said. "This is to help the region to strengthen governance and security, including aid for peacekeeping operations."
All of the Japanese who died were employed by plant engineering firm JGC, which, along with a number of other similar firms from resource-starved Japan, is active in North Africa.
We expect this aid to help strengthen the Afisma mission and abate the poverty that could breed terrorism," Kishida said, referring to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, which has United Nation Security Council backing.
Japan has already given $63-million in aid to the region over the past year, in part to counter a drought and because of a worsening security situation in Mali, a foreign ministry official said.
Following a military coup, radical Islamists seized Tibuktu in April 2012 along with several other cities in the north of Mali, and held them until a French-led force began pushing north this month. Only one Islamist stronghold remains to be retaken: the town of Kidal in the desert hills of the far north, 1 500km north-east of the capital.
France now has 2 900 soldiers in Mali. The International Monetary Fund agreed on Monday to provide an $18.4-million emergency loan to Mali, with observers saying the move was likely to persuade other donors, who cut off aid following the 2012 coup, to release more funds.
The $120-million grant will be provided through international organisations to help Mali and surrounding nations and is also expected to help the Afisma programme indirectly," the official said. Kishida added that the Japanese government will earmark $33-million specifically for anti-terrorism measures globally in next year's budget.
The aid of $120-million is a separate allocation from the budget, the ministry official said. "Senior Vice Foreign Minister (Masaji) Matsuyama, who is now in Addis Ababa, is planning to make the announcement to the international community at the Afisma meeting to be held there [Tuesday]," said Kishida.
The vice foreign minister will declare Japan's unshaken resolve to fight terrorism." – AFP