New York, April 8, 2004—At least one journalist is believed to be among three Japanese civilians abducted today in Iraq by an unknown group calling itself the Mujahedeen Squadrons.
The news comes amid escalating clashes between Coalition forces and Iraqis, as well as several incidents this week in which foreigners—including journalists—have been briefly held by insurgents in Iraq. While pointing out that this is the first use of kidnappings for political ends in the Iraq conflict, several news reports have noted that it is unclear if these abductions are connected.
According to several press reports, Soichiro Koriyama, Noriaki Imai, and Nahoko Takato were kidnapped earlier today. It is not clear where the three were when they were abducted or where they are being held. The Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera broadcast footage of the three captives and reported the captors’ demand that Japanese troops leave the country or the three hostages would be burned alive in three days. The Al-Jazeera video showed the three captives, their Japanese passports, as well as a knife being placed against the neck of one of the hostages. The captors also showed a press card issued in Koriyama’s name.
Koriyama is a freelance photographer on assignment for the Tokyo-based Asahi Weekly, said Koji Igarashi, the New York bureau chief for the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, which publishes Asahi Weekly. Reports have described the remaining captives as either aid workers or journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) continues to seek more details.
“We are alarmed by these abductions and call for the immediate release of these captives,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.