Akihiko Saito in the mid 1980s when he was with the French Foreign Legion's 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment.
5 January 1961|
|Died||11 May 2005
Cause of death
|Gunshot wounds sustained in a Jaish Ansar al-Sunna-planned ambush|
Akihiko Saito (斎藤昭彦 Saitō Akihiko?, born January 5, 1961 in Tōkyō, Japan – captured May 8, 2005, died May 11, 2005 in Iraq) was a Japanese security guard, who was taken hostage by the Jaish Ansar al-Sunna in Iraq in 2005.
His abduction and death brought curiosity and bewilderment to the Japanese public since it was not known to them that he has been in Iraq as a security contractor, being a trained soldier with combat experience.
Prior to entering the French Foreign Legion, Akihiko served in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) in the 1st Airborne Brigade in 1979 before he left in 1981. Akihiko was subsequently recruited into the ranks of the Legion on June 1983.
He then served in the French Foreign Legion for 20 years with the rank of Chief Adjutant (French: Adjudant-Chef) before his departure. Saito was notable deployed with the French Foreign Legion's 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, where he served in numerous combat operations in Africa. During his time with the Legion, he was based at Marseille.
Akihiko Saito had been working for Hart Security Ltd., a Cyprus-based British firm as a security specialist since December 2004 until his abduction by armed Jaish Ansar al-Sunna militants. He was ambushed alongside five other foreign contractors. However, the five foreign and twelve Iraqi contractors were killed in the ambush.
He was eventually killed by Jaish Ansar al-Sunna militants in a video released on the internet.
Video of a dead body was posted online May 27, purportedly by the group, along with his identification papers and passport; his identity in the video was visually confirmed by his brother Hironobu Saito, the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the Japanese National Police Agency and Hart Security.
According to Al Jazeera, his presence in Iraq may have been used to legitimize the deployment of Japanese troops to Iraqi soil. His death was condemned by the Iraqi government. The Japanese government had condemned his death, saying that it will do little to hamper JSDF deployment to Iraq.
He was the sixth Japanese worker in Iraq to be taken hostage; two others had been killed and three released unharmed. While about 600 JGSDF personnel were in Iraq at any time, none had been killed when they withdrew in July 2006.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange was not affected by the kidnapping with traders saying that it did little or nothing at all to affect the stock market. His abduction fueled more opposition against the Japanese government's plans to send JSDF forces to Iraqi soil, believing that their presence would make them a terror target.
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