Japan PM Abe to cut short Indonesia visit for hostage crisis

TOKYO (AFP) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to cut short his visit to Indonesia on Friday, an official said, to fly home and deal with the hostage crisis in Algeria in which numerous Japanese are caught up.

"He will cancel part of his plans in Indonesia, including his policy speech and a dinner hosted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and he will be back in Tokyo around dawn on Saturday," a foreign ministry official in charge of Indonesian matters told AFP.

"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.

At least 17 Japanese are believed to have been caught up in the kidnap drama in the Algerian desert, where heavily armed Islamists snatched hundreds of people.

Japanese plant builder JGC has spoken to three of its Japanese staff, but another 14 remain unaccounted for.

The gunmen at the In Amenas gas site purportedly want to avenge a French-led offensive in Mali.

Abe is on the final leg of his first foreign trip since returning to office late last year.

Other stops on a trip intended to bolster political and economic relations with Southeast Asian nations were Vietnam and Thailand, at least in part as a counterweight to the rising might of China.

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