Japan enlists Iran's assistance in winning release of kidnap victim

Iran Materials 11 October 2007 12:54 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Japanese government officials scrambled today to secure the release of a Japanese man kidnapped in Iran, the Foreign Ministry said.

The man, 23, had been abducted in southeastern Iran, ministry official Yosuke Kawana said, adding that the case surfaced Monday when the Japanese Embassy notified Tokyo.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told reporters today that it had been confirmed that the man, who had called the embassy, was alive.

"It's extremely regrettable," Machimura said of the incident. "We are doing our utmost for his safe release."

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said he spoke Wednesday with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, asking for his cooperation.

Komura said Iranian authorities have learned the location of the man and promised to help win his safe release. Iranian authorities also have a rough idea of who the captors may be, Komura said.

Citing security reasons, officials refused to give further details, including whether there was a ransom request or whether they were in contact with the victim or the kidnappers.

Kyodo News agency identified the man as a college student. It said he told embassy officials he had been kidnapped by an armed group while traveling in southeastern Iran, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was believed to have entered Iran from Pakistan and was kidnapped on his way to an ancient fort in the southeastern province of Kerman.

The abduction follows a series of kidnappings in Iran's lawless southeast this year.

Iran has blamed abductions of foreigners in the area on criminals and drug smugglers, and foreigners are urged to be cautious when traveling there.