4 U.N. mission members shot dead in Tajikistan
Four members of a U.N. observer mission to Tajikistan were shot dead Monday while patrolling a mountainous area some 170 kilometers east of the capital Dushanbe, the U.N. Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT) said Wednesday.
The four killed were civil affairs officer Yutaka Akino of Japan, Maj. Ryszard Szevczek of Poland, Maj. Adolfo Siarpegu of Uruguay, and Tajik interpreter Dzhuradzhon Makhramov.
UNMOT officials said the four bodies were found in a car that had plunged off a cliff near the border with Afghanistan, adding that the mission had recalled all of its field team members in the nation to Dushanbe.
The four had been working as U.N. observers in Tajikistan to monitor provisions of a peace deal reached last year that ended the civil war in the former Soviet republic.
Akino, 48, was an associate professor at Tsukuba University and was dispatched to the United Nations through Japan's Foreign Ministry. He had been stationed in Tajikistan since April.
A native of Otaru, Hokkaido, Akino graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo, had postgraduate education at London University and was an expert in former Soviet and East European regional studies.
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi said the Japanese government was "extremely shocked" by the incident.
Obuchi said Tokyo has already urged the United Nations and the Tajikistan government to make utmost efforts to find those responsible and bring them to justice.
But Obuchi said Japan will continue cooperating with the U.N. to put the peace process on a stable course.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry will send senior officials including a minister from the Japanese Embassy in Russia to Tajikistan to help with the case, its officials said.