Japanese reporter joins al Qaeda in Syria, jihadist claims
A Japanese reporter has joined al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (or Levant), according to a jihadist in Syria who posted photos and commentary on the Internet. Below is the summary from the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained the photographs and the statements:
A jihadist claimed that a Japanese photographer in Syria, Toshifumi Fujimoto, converted to Islam and joined the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The jihadist, Abu Yazid al-'Assiri, posted a picture on his Instagram account on October 12, 2013, showing Fujimoto and an individual named "Sheikh Omar Ghorabaa" sitting in front of the ISIL's banner. He wrote: "The conversion of the Japanese photographer Toshifumi Fujimoto to Islam. He entered Syria through the door of amateur photography and thrill seeking, and he joined the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, may Allah make it firm." Fujimoto shared the picture on his Facebook page.
The picture was distributed on jihadi forums on October 14, where users referred to him as "Abu Saskuki al-Yabani" (Abu Saskuki the Japanese) and included other pictures.
As the civil war in Syria drags on and al Qaeda increases its influence in the insurgency, more and more Westerners are flocking to join the ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's other official affiliate in the war-torn country. Just today, the BBC reported that British intelligence estimates that more than 200 Brits have joined the fight in Syria.
SITE provides a clarification:
Contrary to reports by jihadists, the Japanese man photographed in front of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) banner is Kosuke Tsuneoka, not Toshifumi Fujimoto. Tsuneoka posted the two pictures on his Twitter account and said he did not join the ISIL, but was only visiting it in Syria's Idlib governorate. The other picture jihadists provided, the one showing a man shooting a gun, is Fujimoto. Tsuneoka said Fujimoto "made friends" with the Free Syrian Army and did not join the ISIL.
Here is a picture of Tsuneoka in front of the ISIS flag with a weapon. Another picture shows him and al 'Assiri in front of the ISIS flag with their index fingers raised.