Japanese diplomat stabbed in Yemen as he fights off kidnappers

SANAA, Yemen — Assailants stabbed a Japanese diplomat stationed in Yemen’s capital Sunday when he fought back during a kidnapping attempt, officials said, the latest unrest in a country beset by al-Qaeda militants.

The would-be kidnappers attacked the diplomat not far from the Japanese Embassy in Sanaa, later fleeing with the man’s car.

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Masaru Sato, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, confirmed that an embassy official had been attacked by an unspecified number of armed men.

“We are still in the process of confirming and gathering information about the attack,” Sato said. He declined to give further details, though he noted that Japan’s Foreign Ministry has issued a warning to Japanese tourists and residents in the area, citing the increasing danger of attack.

Yemeni media identified the diplomat as Katsusuke Sotomini, as did an official at the embassy in Sanaa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of regulations. An Associated Press journalist found bloodstains about 220 yards away from the embassy, at the spot where the attack apparently took place.

Atiq al-Maori, a doctor at the Saudi German Hospital in Sanaa, said the diplomat suffered “multiple injuries” to his forearm and shoulder in the attack.

Abductions are frequent in Yemen, an impoverished nation where armed tribesmen and al-Qaeda-linked militants take hostages to swap for prisoners or cash. Yemen has been engaged in a rocky political transition since longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in 2012 following mass protests.

The political turmoil has created a security vacuum, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has taken advantage, seizing large swaths of territory across the restive south. The United States regularly carries out drone strikes in the country, targeting alleged militants belonging to the group.

On Sunday, Yemen’s parliament blamed the United States for an airstrike in the central city of Radda on Thursday that killed at least 15 people, and it asked the government to end the use of Yemeni airspace by U.S. drones to pursue al-Qaeda operatives.

The Yemeni government acknowledged the death of civilians in the attack, saying an al-Qaeda van had hidden in a convoy of civilian cars. It did not say whether government aircraft or U.S. drones were behind the attack.

Although the United States acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not usually talk about individual strikes.

— Associated Press

 
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