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Abe to cut short trip over hostage crisis

Published By United Press International
TOKYO, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- The Japanese government said Friday 14 of its nationals remained unaccounted for in the hostage crisis at an Algerian gas plant.

Separately, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had proceeded on a three-nation Southeast Asia trip this week, planned to curtail his tour to deal with the situation, a spokesman said.

The Japanese government said in a statement it cannot confirm the 14 missing Japanese nationals, all employees of JGC Corp. engineering company, are safe, Kyodo News reported, amid other reports that Algerian security forces had stormed the gas complex, where militants had been holding dozens of hostages from various countries, freeing some of them.

Three more Japanese nationals had been confirmed safe, Kyodo said.

One of them was quoted as telling the Japanese news agency by telephone he and his two colleagues escaped from the militants who attacked the plant Wednesday, and remained in hiding before escaping.

He said he did not have information about the 14 missing. The three left the gas facility in southeastern Algeria Thursday night for Algiers, the report said.

Abe, whose trip included Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, was in Jakarta Friday on his last stop when a spokesman said he would cut short his trip, The Wall Street Journal reported. The trip was his first foreign visit since returning as prime minister in December after his party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.

"Mr. Abe will cancel all official engagements except for the bilateral meeting with the president of Indonesia in order to attend to the Algerian hostage issue," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told reporters, the Journal said.

Abe's engagements in Jakarta include a major foreign-policy speech and a number of meetings. Many of those will be canceled, the spokesman said, except for a meeting and joint statement with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Journal said Algerian security forces raided the gas complex to free the foreigners, but some hostages had died.
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Tour de France concludes in Paris
Race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain (C) stands between second place finisher Christopher Froome of Great Britain (L) and third place finisher Vincenzo Nibali of Italy on the presentation podium following the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris on July 22, 2012. Wiggins of Great Britain became that country's first ever overall winner of the Tour de France. UPI/David Silpa