A Japanese man attempting to join the Islamic State group in Syria was detained by Turkish officials Tuesday, Turkish media reported Wednesday. The man, identified only as M.M., was caught while authorities were searching a suspicious car in the Nizip district in southeastern province of Gaziantep.
During the investigation, the Japanese man confessed that he had reached the district hoping to cross over the border to join the extremist group, also known as ISIS, in Syria, Turkey's Doğan News Agency reported. He added that he was convinced to join the Sunni militant group after he met a Syrian person. ISIS recently claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks in Brussels that killed at least 30 people and injured over 200.
The detention of the 24 year-old man, along with several Syrians, late Tuesday was confirmed by the Japanese government Thursday through the Japanese embassy in Turkey, Kyodo News reported. However, a senior Japanese foreign ministry official said that the man’s motive was not clear. “The Turkish authorities are looking into it,” the official said.
Five other foreigners were also separately arrested near the Turkish border for trying to cross over to Syria, the Associated Press reported, citing Turkey's Anadolu Agency.
Another Japanese official said, according to Kyodo News, that the man was from the Wakayama Prefecture in the southern Kansai region. The official added that the man may be sent back to Japan as early as Thursday, Kyodo News reported, adding that he was handed over to immigration authorities in Gaziantep.
Images published by several news sources show a man wearing glasses, kneeling on the ground with his hands above his head, according to Kyodo News. Guards were seen standing next to him. The case is believed to be the first where a Japanese national has been detained for trying to join ISIS.
In 2014, Japanese authorities questioned a student from Hokkaido University in an investigation into allegations that the student planned to join ISIS in Syria, Kyodo News reported. Several other locations in the country were also raided during the investigation.