Archival - Islamic State Captures Japanese National In Aleppo Region

January 20, 2015

The following report, a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM), was originally published on August 19, 2014. For JTTM subscription information, click here.

On August 17, 2014, two videos were circulated on jihadi social media accounts showing Japanese national Haruna Yukawa, who was captured at an unknown date by Islamic State forces in northern Aleppo province. While his current status is unknown, he is likely still being held by the IS.

It is not entirely clear what Yukawa was doing in Syria at the time of his capture. According to his captors, he was apprehended armed and with Free Syrian Army fighters.

In one of the videos, Yukawa, speaking in broken English, claims under duress and while threatened with a knife that he is a photographer who came to Syria in the framework of his job, and adds that he his "half journalist, half medical doctor" and "I am no soldier."

IS tweeted a statement about Yukawa On August 17: "The Islamic state has captured a Japanese national claiming to be a photographer. The intelligence [apparatus] of the Islamic State has captured a spy named Haruna Yukawa, a Japanese national who is the operations manager of a Japanese security company and not a photographer [as he claims]. The company [he manages] is called "the private security company,"[1] which deals, inter alia, with direct combat, bodyguard [services] for prominent figures, logistical support, preparing combat plans, [and] consultation on military tactics."

The IS statement includes what it claims is evidence of Yukawa's guilt: links to a video posted by Yukawa on YouTube showing him firing a Kalashnikov, and images of him posing with Kurdish fighters.

Yukawa does appear to be the chief executive officer of a company called PMC Co.LTD, a Japan-based private military contractor that offers a wide variety of services such as armed security and intelligence gathering. The company website[2] notes that the company is recruiting employees with law enforcement and military backgrounds for jobs in high-risk environments.

Yukawa maintains a blog,[3] a Facebook account,[4] and a YouTube channel,[5] where he has posted photos and videos of himself in Iraq and Syria. While none of the information or images that he has posted – including those showing him holding a weapon – suggest that he has been taking an active part in any combat, Paris-based Kuwaiti journalist Faed Qarmeish, who was with him in Iraq in June 2014, tweeted: "What I do know about Haruna is he converted to Islam and fought alongside the Mujahidin and then the Mujahidin took him prisoner and fear made him say he was a press photographer... Only God knows."[6] This statement suggests that Yukawa might have been fighting alongside the FSA at the time of his capture.

According to recent reports, there has been intense combat between FSA and the IS in the Aleppo region.

Jihadi sources on Twitter are speculating that Yukawa fought with the FSA as a mercenary, and that he might be a spy. IS fighter Abdullah tweeted that Yukawa is "not a spy, just someone who fought with FSA in Aleppo to earn dollars. Might still lose his head who knows?" [7] IS supporters have distributed photos of Yukawa in captivity, as well as a second video of him being forced into repeating an IS slogan. It is thought that he is still being held by IS militants.

Yukawa posing with a gun in Aleppo, from his Facebook page. Posted May 3, 2014.


Screenshots of one of the videos showing Yukawa being interrogated just following his capture.


This photo, posted May 5 on Yukawa's Facebook page, is captioned in Japanese, broken English, and Arabic, and mentions "people of Freedom Syrian army."


Yukawa also posted on his Facebook page photos of himself with politicians in Japan, including this photo, posted May 3, with politician and former Japanese Air Self Defense Force commander Toshio Tamogami


Yukawa (far right) in May 2014 with military personnel in U.S. Army uniforms and a Japanese TV reporter, in Kirkuk, Iraq; IS claims to have obtained this photo from his phone at the time of his capture.


Yukawa, left, and Kurdish fighters in Iraq, June 2014. IS claims to have obtained this photo from his phone at the time of his capture



Yukawa with journalist Faed Qarmeish. This photo was posted June 29 by Qarmeish on his Facebook page. Qarmeish tweeted that Yukawa was indeed fighting with the mujahideen in Syria.


British IS fighter in Syria Abdullah speculates on Yukawa's future.


On August 16, IS supporter Abu Abdullah tweeted photos of Yukawa in captivity.


Screenshot of Yukawa's YouTube channel.


Screenshot of the company profile page on Yukawa's website, listing him as the CEO of the Private Military Company firm 

[1] This phrase is written in the communiqué in Japanese characters.








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