Japan says death of Islamic State chief key step for Mideast peace

Japan said Monday the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. special forces operation in Syria marks a key step toward Middle East peace, while noting the need for continued international efforts to fight extremism.
"We believe it is an important step toward peace and stability in the Middle East and recognize it as a result of the international fight against extremism," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.
"That doesn't mean that our fight against extremism will end. The international community needs to work together to prevent ISIL from gaining strength again and extremism from spreading," the top government spokesman said, referring to the Islamic State group.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced Sunday the death of al-Baghdadi, who he said had detonated a suicide vest during a U.S. military raid, killing himself and three of his children.
The development came after Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria sparked criticism that the Islamic State could regain strength after it lost vast stretches of territory it once controlled. Trump said the U.S. military pullout plan will not change after the raid.
Suga said Japan has been in close contact with its U.S. ally over the Middle East situation, adding that Tokyo will work closely with the international community to resolve the crisis in Syria.
"Japan expects all parties involved to play a constructive role in improving the humanitarian situation in Syria and advancing the political process under the auspices of the United Nations," Suga said.

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