Two more Japanese citizens have been confirmed to have died during a hostage crisis last week in Algeria, the Japanese government confirmed, bringing the total number to nine. One Japanese worker remains missing.
The victims worked for a Japanese engineering company, JGC Corp., at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert. Seven other Japanese workers for the company survived the hostage-taking.
Islamist militants seized the gas field and held scores of foreigners from a number of countries hostage for four days until Algerian special forces stormed the plant Saturday. Algeria's prime minister has said that at least 37 hostages and 29 militants were killed.
"Using violence is not forgivable whatever the cause," chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday evening after confirming that officials found the bodies of the two Japanese among a group of unidentified victims. "We strongly condemn terrorist activities."
"It is extremely regrettable," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Thursday.
Japanese news reports said a government airplane carrying the seven survivors and nine bodies is scheduled to return to Japan as early as Friday morning.
Mitsunobu Fuchida, the older brother of a victim, arrived at Haneda airport on Thursday morning to await the return of his brother's body.
"I just want to see him. I want to see him quickly," he said.
Authorities said they were unable to confirm the status of one missing Japanese national, as well as four foreign employees of JGC.
At a news conference early Thursday, JGC spokesman Takeshi Endo said recovery efforts for the missing continue.
"Our company will do all it can to ascertain the status of these five people," Endo said.