Afghan police find body of Japanese hostage

August 27th, 2008 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Aug 27 (DPA) Police and Afghan villagers Wednesday found the body of a Japanese aid worker who was abducted by four armed men Tuesday in the eastern province of Nangarhar, officials said. Kazuya Ito’s death was confirmed by the aid agency that he worked for and regional officials. Japanese officials would only confirm that a body of a Japanese man had been found.

Noor Zaman, an official from Peshawar-Kai, the Japanese aid group Ito worked for, told DPA that “the body has been seen and confirmed by our other colleagues in the area.”

Shukerullah Durani, administrative chief of Khewa district, also confirmed that the body of the hostage was found and said he had been shot.

Durani also said authorities arrested two of the kidnappers, who were from the Khewa district and belong to the Taliban network.

In Tokyo, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichita Yamamoto told a news conference Wednesday that the UN office in Afghanistan informed Japan that a body appearing to be that of a Japanese man had been found by local police, the Kyodo News agency reported.

But the Japanese government had not been able to confirm whether it is that of Ito, Yamamoto said.

Ito, 31, and his Afghan driver were abducted Tuesday as he was on his way to inspect an irrigation project in the area. The driver was released later Tuesday by the kidnappers.

Taliban militants on Tuesday reportedly claimed responsibility for the abduction and said that the Japanese hostage had been killed during a clash between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces.

Ito had been conducting volunteer work as an agricultural specialist for Peshawar-kai since December 2003. The non-governmental organization has been assisting in digging wells and building irrigation systems.

Taliban militants have stepped up their attacks on aid organizations and have carried out kidnappings in the past. Abduction for ransom by criminal gangs has also become common in Afghanistan.

At least 24 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, including three Western woman workers for the New York-based International Rescue Committee, who were shot dead by Taliban militants on Aug 13 outside Kabul, an Afghan aid coordinating
agency said.

In 2005, two Japanese teachers were found shot to death in the southern province of Kandahar. The two had been on their way from the Pakistani border to Kabul.

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