April 12, 2004


Those Japanese hostages have been, or are about to be, released:

Japan obtained information its three citizens abducted by armed militants in Iraq last week are safe and will be released today, said Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The three captives are Noriaki Imai, 18, Soichiro Koriyama, 32, and Nahoko Takato, 34, according to the government, which learned Thursday they had been kidnapped by an insurgent group calling itself the Mujahedeen Brigades.

The kidnappers threatened to kill the three unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq by 9 p.m. Tokyo time Sunday, Al- Jazeera satellite television reported. On Friday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Japan wouldn't withdraw its troops in the face of terrorist threats.

More here. Next: to find out if this whole deal was a hoax. I'm doubtful, but questions should be asked.

UPDATE. The Japanese hostages are most likely still hostages:

Confusion surrounded efforts to free three Japanese hostages under threat of imminent execution in Iraq Monday as the ranks of captive foreigners grew with the abduction of seven Chinese.

As the reported deadline deadline of 5:00 pm (1300 GMT) for the first of the captives to be burned alive, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi admitted Tokyo had no clear information about the hostages.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 12, 2004 12:52 AM

I'm betting the "hostages" were working together with their kidnappers. They might even have come up with the idea themselves, or went along with it for a share of the ransom.

It's a pretty wimpy terrorist organization that doesn't make good on its threats. Almost like a peacenik organization...

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 12, 2004 at 02:52 AM

Given their backgrounds, the hostages may have been stupid enough to want to cooperate with the insurgents. However, that's not the way the insurgents operate, and they very well would have been serious about killing the hostages. If the hostages were willing to fall into their hands, that's just icing, but it wouldn't change the underlying motives and modus operandi of these guys.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at April 12, 2004 at 05:30 AM

So... why are they still alive?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 12, 2004 at 07:28 AM

I initially figured the talk about a hoax to be just that - talk. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe there was some kind of back-channel deal (ransom?), but real hostage takers will have blown their credibility for future snatches if the details don't become known.

Released hostages + no public deal = something squirrelly.

Posted by: Darth VAda at April 12, 2004 at 09:36 AM

Perhaps the islamists simply realized that a living lefty is worth more to them and their cause than a dead lefty...I'm certainly curious to see what words the hostages are going to use towards their kidnappers after they've been released.

Maybe I'm just too much of a cynic though...

Posted by: PW at April 12, 2004 at 09:50 AM

I believe that the original message was that the three were to be "burned alive and then we will feed them to our fighters" so there was the implied promise of cannibalism!

Pretty wild.

Now that it's apparently off, I'm leaning toward 'hoax', too. Besides, everyone knows that Japanese should be eaten raw with wasabi and thinly sliced ginger.

Posted by: JDB at April 12, 2004 at 10:05 AM

Is it a comedy act for you guys because the hostages are Japanese and not from the good ole USA?

Posted by: Ron at April 12, 2004 at 10:05 AM


It's a comedy act because the three were known anti-war activists who had left incriminating messages (pointing to a collusion in some sort of plot) shortly before they were "kidnapped".

It's comedy because WE, the audience, know that our Jihadi enemy is not some benign, misunderstood, garden variety student group. They are vicious, death-obsessed, win at all costs sociopaths. For peace creeps of any race or nationality to willingly jump in the lion's den is a hoot...like "human shields"...I only wish they were Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, and Susan Sarandon.

Posted by: JDB at April 12, 2004 at 10:16 AM

Nah, Audrey Seiler was a comedy act too.
If these were American anti-war activists we'd be doing the same thing.
But our people have to be eaten on toast, with French's mustard, and a dill pickle on the side.

Posted by: Donnah at April 12, 2004 at 10:23 AM


You're onto something here. It was my gut feel from the start. I was looked at like I was a raving loony when I suggested it in front of work colleagues.

There are a few things which set me off:

1. An 18yo aid worker/peace activist being part of the group. What non-communard NGO sends an 18yo anywhere?
2. The pace with which the anti-American crew mobilised in Japan. It was as if they knew somthing was up.
3. The name of the group 'which captured' the hostages was questionable.

Posted by: murph at April 12, 2004 at 11:28 AM

The hoax theory does seem plausible. I haven't been following this carefully, but when I first saw that video of them being held and terrorised, it didn't convince me. It just looked too staged, too hyped-up somehow.

As I remember it, some guy was holding a knife at someone's throat and there was a lot of movement - especially by the captors.

In the real tapes I've seen there's usually a chilling stillness. The hostages are just too petrified to move. And the hostage takers tend to be motionless also. They have the lives of these people in their hands. They don't have to do anything else to get their "message" across.

Posted by: Matt at April 12, 2004 at 11:53 AM

Hoax or no, the end result is beyond doubt. The Japanese Government paid. It is the Modus Operandi of their postwar culture. They pay - handsomely - and then sit back and pray that it doesn't happen again, and again.

Which is exactly what the Japanese Red Army Faction used to do in the old days.

Almost makes you feel sorry for them. Their katanas have grown dull and rusty, the rising sun well and truly set.

Posted by: Mike Jericho at April 12, 2004 at 01:30 PM

How did they Japanese govt pay?

Posted by: murph at April 12, 2004 at 03:06 PM

This is all looking a little dubious. Could be it started out as a hoax and our young friends are getting more than expected. Some people, who's names frequently contain the word "Mohammad" tend to get carried away.

That guy really did look scared.

Posted by: Max Firmin at April 12, 2004 at 03:53 PM

The trouble with you Ron is that you're obviously only used to the many, many websites where Americans and only Americans are fair game for ridicule. Martin Sheen is another American I wouldn't mind seeing in the place of those Japanese.

Posted by: Brian. at April 12, 2004 at 06:56 PM

The only Japanese reaction to the hostage taking I've seen is an unconvincing report by the ABC's Mark Simkins. His reports on Japanese anti-war protests in the past have always relied on very, very tight camera shots, as has this one, where a few people are deceptively implied to be many. Add that fool Kerry Nettle to the list of substitute hostages!

Posted by: Brian. at April 12, 2004 at 07:10 PM

Dangnation. Here was our chance to test out Clinton's anti-terrorist plan ("What if we dropped some ninjas on bin Laden?") using actual ninjas.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at April 12, 2004 at 08:20 PM

Dangnation. Here was our chance to test out Clinton's anti-terrorist plan ("What if we dropped some ninjas on bin Laden?") using actual ninjas.

Posted by: Uncle Milk at April 12, 2004 at 08:20 PM

If those Japanese have concocted this whole thing, or in some way have played a part in a contrived kidnapping stunt, then the other hostages taken in copy-cat incidents means they have some serious blood on theirs hands.

Posted by: Brian. at April 12, 2004 at 08:59 PM

Three possibilities:
a) Hoax, with "hostages" in on it
b) As above, but the hostages suddenly find out their captors really will barbecue them (not part of the deal)
c) Straight

Until more convincing evidence comes along, I plump for c)

Posted by: Alan E Brain at April 12, 2004 at 09:35 PM

It appears that there have been a few copycat kidnaps in the past couple of days; so if it is indeed true that the taking of the Japanese hostages is a hoax, they will have blood on their hands if anybody is hurt from any copycat kidnaps, whether these kidnaps be real or also hoaxes.

Posted by: BernieH at April 12, 2004 at 10:14 PM

Would the 7 chinese be taking part in the hoax? And the American (civilian) Thomas Hamill, caught on camera? Certainly the British Gary Teeley because he was released. And of course

Two foreign Arab aid workers were kidnapped last week and apparently remain captive. They are Fadi Fadel, a Syrian-born Canadian who works for the International Rescue Committee, and Nabil Razzouk, a Jerusalem resident who works for RTI, a firm that subcontracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development

Note that Fadi Fadel was born in Syria! Not only that, he works for an organisation whith such obscure a name as International Rescue Committee, really, REALLY. As for Nabil Razzouk, he subcontracts for the U.(nited)S.(tates)(of America)  Agency for International Development. An agency well known to be infiltrated by neo bolcheviks.

Posted by: gregorius at April 12, 2004 at 10:28 PM

Wretchard has some insights into the strategy behind allowing (or kidnapping) Westerners behind enemy lines.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at April 13, 2004 at 12:57 AM

Whether they paid or not the real question is: will they respond appropriately by sending more troops?

Posted by: aaron at April 13, 2004 at 01:01 AM


[In the interests of time and sanity the Parrot-English translator has been turned off for the evening. -- The Management.]

Posted by: Miranda Divide at April 13, 2004 at 06:14 AM


I didn't know if you knew this or not, but Federal Express isn't actually part of the federal government.

You can interpret this however you like.

Posted by: david at April 13, 2004 at 07:03 AM

While I have my doubts, I too am assuming c. On the ohter hand, should the Japanese Government find out that it was a, then I hope that they forget - momentarily - that they are a civilized country. Daniel Pearl comes to mind to easily to just write any of these hostages off lightly.

Posted by: rabidfox at April 13, 2004 at 07:43 AM