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.


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , , ,


  • Birbal Dhar says:

    The Japanese guy is not a reporter, but in fact a war tourist, who gets the kick out of going to war torn areas and taking photographs. There is an interesting article about him from the Huffington Post below:
    After reading the article, main things that are interesting:
    1. The guy doesn’t speak any English, let alone Arabic. Unless he picked up Arabic in 6 or 7 months. Mind you the article was published in March 2013.
    2. The guy’s job was a truck driver and he was divorced, with 3 daughters.
    3. He doesn’t have a girlfriend or family or friends, according to the article, but strangely takes out a life insurance policy to help his daughters if he gets killed.
    4. I don’t think any life insurance policy will pay his daughters when the guy is involved in a war.

  • Alex Strick says:

    Given the earlier discussion on twitter, maybe worth retracting/amending this post?

  • reader says:

    A Japanese Reporter Joins AQCIA in Syria…
    Ya can’t make this stuff up!

  • . says:

    When I first saw the title of the article, I thought this was an attempt by Bill Roggio to get into comedy.
    After reading the article and Birbal Dhar’s post, it sounds as though the Japanese man is going through a major midlife crisis.

  • Morgan says:

    “War tourist”……..are there package deals for this? 5 days, 4 nights, your own AK with three mags…that sort of thing? It ought to come with a t-shirt too.

  • Olrik says:

    bin-Fujimoto will have an honoured place around the camel dung campfire and will be allowed his choice of the fairest Afghan dancing boys and ungulates for his carnal pleasure…

  • James Archer says:

    I was there when this photo was taken. That is most definitely not the same man. This article should be corrected. If the Japanese government finds this, he could be in hot water. Please amend this, he’s had a hard life, and he’s a great guy.

  • Hamza says:

    after having a close look at the photo.. its seems that its been edited ..


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram