New York, April 15, 2004—Three Japanese civilians, including one photographer, abducted in Iraq last week were released today. However, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about reports that armed gunmen abducted another Japanese journalist and an activist from Japan near Baghdad yesterday.
The Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera reported today that Japanese journalist Soichiro Koriyama, a freelance photographer on assignment for the Tokyo-based Asahi Weekly, was released along with researcher Noriaki Imai and aid worker Nahoko Takato. According to press reports, the three are currently at the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad.
The three were abducted on April 8 by a group calling itself the Mujahedeen Brigades. In a video tape broadcast last week by Al-Jazeera, the group had threatened to burn the hostages alive if Japanese troops did not leave the country.
In a separate development, CPJ is investigating reports that Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who was filing for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, and an activist thought to be Nobutaka Watanabe were abducted yesterday outside Baghdad as they drove to Abu Ghraib, west of the capital, to film a downed U.S. Apache helicopter. The Japanese Visual Journalist Association, a Tokyo-based journalists group, told CPJ it received an email from an Iraqi who witnessed the abduction. In the email, the witness said that a “big disaster happened” when armed gunmen abducted the two at gunpoint.
CPJ is continuing to investigate the case.
At least three other journalists—Michal Kubal and cameraman Petr Klima, both with the public network Czech Television, and Vit Pohanka, of the public station Czech Radio—are among several dozen foreigners reportedly missing or abducted by insurgents in Iraq.