After reports surfaced of a Japanese national having been captured by Islamist militants in Syria, Japan’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it is looking into the reports, but added its officials were unaware of any statement claiming responsibility, or of ransom demands for the hostage.
"We are aware of such reports, and have set up a local task force in Jordan," a Japanese foreign ministry official said, according to a Reuters report.
A Youtube video clip reportedly shows a man lying on the ground being questioned by unidentified persons, and shows him saying his name is Haruna Yukawa and that he is a Japanese national. In the unverified video, the man is heard being asked in English, “Why do you have a gun?” to which his answer is inaudible, Reuters reported. The name Haruna Yukawa matches that of the self-proclaimed CEO of a Tokyo-based private security firm.
A Facebook post on July 11 by Yukawa shows him test-firing an assault rifle in a location he claims to be Aleppo, Syria, and other pictures on his Facebook page show him to be near the Iraqi border and posing in an armored vehicle while complaining of the desert heat.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the Syrian civil war after President Bashar Assad stifled a pro-democracy movement in March 2011.