Japanese man feared kidnapped by Syrian militants
Japan’s government said Monday it was investigating a video posted online that appears to show a kidnapped Japanese man being roughly interrogated by Syrian militants.
The video, which surfaced over the weekend, shows a man who identified himself as Haruna Yukawa lying on the ground with blood trickling down his face as his apparent captors question him.
The man, with matted brown hair and wearing a black T-shirt stained by dust and sweat, offered brief responses to questions posed in English about why he was in Syria and the reason he was carrying a gun.
He replied that he was a “photographer” and a “journalist, half doctor”.
“I’m no soldier,” he said in the video.
Japan’s foreign ministry said it was trying to verify the man’s identity through its embassy in violence-wracked Syria, which is now operating out of neighboring Jordan.
“We are aware of what has been reported in social media and are trying to verify the information” including the man’s nationality, a foreign ministry official told AFP.
No one has claimed responsibility for the apparent kidnapping, added the official with the ministry’s anti-terrorism unit in Tokyo.
Vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki later told reporters that the civil war in Syria made it difficult to investigate the case.
“Syria is in a very confused state and we are seeking to confirm the safety of the person through various routes,” he said.
Another online video showed a man believed to be Yukawa test-firing an AK47 assault rifle in Syria.
The video can also be seen at the website of Tokyo-based private military firm PMC, which lists Yukawa as its chief executive, who is shown beside some right-wing Japanese activists in pictures on the site.
Calls to the firm went unanswered on Monday.
Yukawa also has a blog with video footage of what he describes as massacres in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Japanese nationals’ involvement as combatants in foreign conflicts is limited, although the country’s extensive media is usually well-represented in hotspots.