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Widower calls for support system for victims of terrorist attacks overseas

Yoji Narusawa looks at a collection of poems he composed to remember his wife in front of his family's Buddhist altar at his home in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, on June 24, 2016. (Mainichi)

The husband of a Japanese woman who was killed in a terrorist attack in Tunisia in March last year is urging the government to establish a system to support victims of terrorist attacks overseas.

    Yoji Narusawa, 71, lost his wife, 66-year-old Machiyo in the incident that occurred at the Bardo National Museum in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis.

    Japanese people face increased risks of getting involved in terrorist attacks, as is shown by the Bangladesh hostage crisis in early July that killed seven Japanese people.

    "I'd like a system to support victims to be swiftly created," Narusawa said in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The Narusawas participated in a tour of Tunisia after Machiyo retired as a dress designer at the age of 65.

    At around noon on March 18, 2015, the couple visited the museum with two others. When they went up to the second floor, they saw visitors gathering around a window. After Narusawa had left Machiyo he heard gunshots. He slipped into the shadows and waited until the gunshots ended and subsequently found Machiyo dead after being shot.

    A man wearing military boots passed by him as he was lying on the floor and embracing Machiyo. Shortly afterwards, he heard someone ask him, "Are you Japanese?"

    Narusawa remembered that Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto, 47, was murdered in Syria about a month earlier. After the incident, media outlets reported that the Islamic State (IS) militant group threatened to target more Japanese nationals. He thought that his wife had fallen victim to terrorists just as the IS had threatened.

    Narusawa still regrets having left his wife at the museum. "If I had been with her, I might not have suffered so much," he says. An acquaintance who traveled to Tunisia with the couple had his leg shot and is still in hospital.

    With the help of his 32-year-old son Bungo, Narusawa has urged the government to expand its assistance to those attacked by terrorists overseas.

    Amid such moves, the hostage crisis occurred in Bangladesh. The bodies of the seven Japanese victims were transported back to Japan on a government plane. However, when Narusawa asked the Foreign Ministry for help in transporting Machiyo's body back home, a ministry official refused to cooperate saying, "We'd like you to make the arrangements."

    Narusawa did not receive any financial assistance from the government. The bereaved family of a Japanese national killed in a crime overseas is entitled to 2 million yen under a new law regarding condolence money to be paid in case Japanese nationals suffer damage in overseas crimes, which was enacted in June this year. However, the law does not apply to incidents that occurred before it came into force.

    Noting that the family of a victim killed in a domestic crime is entitled to up to 40 million yen in condolence money, Narusawa said he feels that the wide gap between victims killed in Japan and those murdered overseas is unreasonable.

    He also has the impression that the Japanese government's response to victims of terrorist attacks is haphazard compared with the U.S. government's system to extend assistance to victims of terrorist attacks.

    "Japan is cold to victims of terrorist attacks. There should be different responses to different types of incidents. It's essential to create a detailed system to provide assistance in response to different cases," he said.

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