Iran General NewsJapanese tourist, seized by bandits in Iran, freed

Japanese tourist, seized by bandits in Iran, freed

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ImageAP: A Japanese tourist kidnapped by suspected bandits while traveling in southeastern Iran last year has been released.

The Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

ImageTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A Japanese tourist kidnapped by suspected bandits while traveling in southeastern Iran last year has been released.

Satoshi Nakamura, 23, was released late Saturday, eight months after he was taken hostage as he traveled alone in Iran's lawless southeastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Japan's Foreign Ministry and Iran's official IRNA news agency confirmed the release.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi was quoted as saying drug smugglers and armed bandits were responsible for the kidnapping. Nakamura sounded in good spirits when Japanese embassy officials in Tehran telephoned the student, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.

No other details, including the location of his release and whether a ransom was paid, were available.

Iran has historically blamed kidnappings of foreigners in the area on criminals and drug smugglers, and foreigners are urged to be cautious while there.

Elsewhere, rebels from the Jundallah armed group, believed to have links to al-Qaida, kidnapped 16 Iranian border guards and carried them across the frontier into Pakistan on Friday, IRNA reported Saturday.

The incident, part of the low level insurgency being waged in southeastern Iran, took place as Pakistan handed over four senior members of the group. Among the rebels handed over to Iran was Abdel-Hamid Rigi, brother of Jundallah's leader Abdel-Malak.

The Rigis are members of Iran's ethnic Baluchi minority, which can also be found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rigi has claimed his group fights for the rights of Sunni Muslims oppressed by Iran's Shiite government.

Salim Awan, a government official in Quetta, Pakistan, said Iran had asked Pakistan to help recover the border guards abducted inside Iran.

Iran has faced several ethnic and religious insurgencies that have staged occasionally deadly attacks in recent years — though none has amounted to a serious threat to the government.

Jundallah claimed responsibility last year for killing 11 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards in southeastern Iran.

Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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