Body of Japanese aid worker discovered

Afghan police found the body of a Japanese aid worker, a day after he was kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan.

An Afghan police man guards the hilltop in Bodyalai village of Khiva district, in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug 27, 2008.
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Afghan police found the body of a Japanese aid worker, a day after he was kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan, a district governor said. Kazuya Ito, 31, who had spent the past five years working in the war-ravaged country, was seized on his way to an irrigation project being built by his employer. "We found the abducted Japanese man minutes ago. He has been shot several times," Kuz Kunar district governor, Malim Mashouq, said.

Mr Ito's Afghan driver and translator, who was abducted with him and freed several hours later, recognised the body. A police spokesman, who was waiting at the foot of the mountain where the body was found, also said the body seemed to be Mr Ito. "But we are waiting to see in person to make 100 per cent sure it is him," he said. Mr Ito, an agricultural specialist, was captured as he was beginning a daily visit to inspect an irrigation project in Kuz Kunar, about 20km north of Jalalabad city. The hardline Taliban militia, behind a growing insurgency in Afghanistan, claimed its men had taken Mr Ito and said he was killed in clashes with security forces following them.

The Afghan interior ministry had said yesterday that Mr Ito was freed. But Japan later said that statement was erroneous. In Tokyo, Japanese officials said that a body was being transported to the eastern city of Jalalabad for identification. Afghan authorities told Japanese diplomats that the male body appeared to be a Japanese national. An official of the Peshawar-kai non-governmental group who employed Mr Ito confirmed the killing. "Yes they (police) have found him unfortunately dead," the group's local deputy manager Noor Zaman said. Another official, who declined to be named, said Mr Ito was shot twice in the leg and bled to death.

The Afghan interior ministry said they had launched a massive operation involving police and "500 villagers" to look for Mr Ito. "Police closed the circle on abductors, that is why they left him there bleeding," the source said. Tetsu Nakamura, a Japanese doctor who has set up projects across Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than two decades, founded Mr Ito's aid group. Mr Nakamura was an outspoken opponent of the 2001 US-led war that ended Taliban rule.

The latest incident follows a string of attacks on aid workers that have left 25 dead in Afghanistan and raised alarm over the state of the country seven years after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001. The deteriorating security has led to a spike in kidnappings, some carried out by the Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001, and others by criminal groups seeking ransom.

In the deadliest such attack in years, Taliban gunmen shot dead three Western women and their Afghan driver on August 13 as they were driving to Kabul in a vehicle marked with the logo of their group, the International Rescue Committee. An Afghan employee of a French aid group, Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (Acted), was found murdered in the north last week, two days after he was abducted, his organisation said.

Japan has been a leading donor to Afghanistan since the Taliban fell, but has lost two citizens to violence there. Two teachers, a man and a woman, were shot dead in 2005 after apparently going to the insurgency-plagued province of Kandahar on holiday. * AFP