Bodies of 7 Japanese return from Bangladesh

TOKYO: Under gray skies, the bodies of the seven Japanese killed in a militant attack in Bangladesh returned to home soil early Tuesday morning.

A Japanese government plane, which had brought family members and government officials to Bangladesh to retrieve the victims, touched down at 5:50 a.m. local time at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

The bodies, in boxes covered with white cloth, were lowered slowly in pairs from the high cargo bay of the 747, and lined up on four wheeled cargo pallets on the tarmac.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Bangladesh Ambassador Rabab Fatima and other officials laid bouquets of flowers in between the boxes. Kishida said later that the cruel act of terrorism had taken precious lives. "I once again felt deep sorry and indignation," he told reporters.

The five men and two women were among 20 hostages who died in an overnight siege that ended Saturday morning at a restaurant popular with foreigners in Dhaka, the capital city. They were private consultants working on a Japanese government development project in Bangladesh.

Their bodies were taken to a hospital for autopsies.

Separately, the one Japanese survivor of the attack arrived earlier in the morning on a small plane. Tamaoki Watanabe, who was shot during the siege, was taken off the plane on a stretcher and transferred to a Tokyo hospital, according to Japanese media reports.

All eight consultants had been eating together at the restaurant. Japanese media say they ranged in age from 27-year-old Rui Shimodaira, a woman who dreamed of playing an active role in international development, to 80-year-old Hiroshi Tanaka, a retired railways research engineer who wanted to share his know-how with developing countries.