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fab
April 23, 2004, 02:48 AM
"Hostages?" The Tale of the Tape

As soon as Al Jazeera had aired video of the the three Japanese taken by their kidnappers, I was asked by the Fuji TV News Center to look over the tape. What the Japanese public saw again and again on their TV screens was only a small part of the original recording. NHK and the commercial stations in Japan elected to avoid showing the more "shocking" and "violent" parts of the tape

I saw the whole thing at least twenty times, rewinding, replaying, and closely examining some of the details. And is was eminently clear that all was not as cut and dried as the Japanese media evidently wanted the public to believe. For starters, there was no blood whatsoever, nor -- at least to my eyes -- any convincingly realistic "violence."

By now, readers are likely familiar with the story and the nature of the three individuals, but I think it pertinent to note here that Soichiro Koriyama, the photojournalist who just happened to be one of the three is a staffer for the Weekly Asahi, which just happens to be one organ of the Asahi group -- which has been critical of the ruling LDP and the Koizumi administration for quite a while.

The tape opens with shots of the three Japanese blindfolded and squatting/half-sitting on the floor of a dingy building that looks to have bullet scars on its walls and unglazed open rectangles for windows. The sitting/squatting posture is odd -- there is a strangely relaxed posture evident. They are not on their knees and they are holding their heads up in a normal way; their heads are not bowed.

There is no sign of fear in their postures.

Another thing that was obvious to me was that the blindfolds of the three Japanese were far too neat; looking as though they had just been tied in place -- and not very tightly at that. The captives' hair was neatly caught behind the blindfolds, which would not likely be the case if they had been blindfolded earlier. This is especially obvious on the foreheads.

That seems odd, in that it is far more likely that the captors would blindfold the three immediately upon capture in order to disorient them, reduce any possibility of resistance, and keep them from seeing the route over which they would travel to where they would be held. Moreover, the captives' hands were not bound and they were not gagged with cloth or tape; neither of these effective psychological measures for creating disorientation and establishing and displaying dominance was done.

The captors standing around them hold an odd collection of weapons. We can see the usual AK-47 assault rifles -- but two Dragunov SVD sniper rifles are also evident; it seems unusual indeed that a terrorist "snatch team" would carry such weapons.

At one point, what appears to be a South African-made R-6 assault rifle is thrust at one hostage. Another captor holds an RPG-7 rocket launcher with its characteristic conical round in place; obviously very much a terrorist icon par excellence. But having a live round in the launcher while holding it indoors is really a pretty stupid thing to do, as the explosion of the warhead and the backblast from the propellant would take out everybody in the room if there were an accidental discharge. A curious edged weapon is also visible: a long, almost swordlike antique bayonet (most likely a WWI-vintage type issued to the Ottoman army) is brandished at the captives' throats at one point.

Suddenly, the tape shows the three Japanese without blindfolds and apparently talking and gesticulating with their captors. There is no stress on their faces. Moreover, there is no sound on the tape during this or the previous sequence.

Suddenly, we are presented with a side view of the three with blindfolds in place; the captors still stand around them holding their weapons. This blindfolds on-off-on sequence leads me to believe that an early part of thetape showing the captives without blindfolds was recorded over, possibly tocover up some inadvertant "error". Then the scene changes, and the soundcomes on. A captor holding the collector's-item bayonet mentioned above holds it to throat of one blindfolded captive and then another, all the while shouting "no Koizumi" (sounding more like "nogozumi"), "no USA," and "no Japan" (sounding like nodzaban) -- all the while forcing the threatened captives to repeat the same. The badly-pronounced, parrotlike phrases and the amazingly coordinated call-and-response sequencing hint that something may have been "scripted" before the tape started rolling.

Finally, we are shown a wide-angle shot of the three hostages -- still blindfolded -- as their captors push them onto their backs. Koriyama, the Weekly Asahi photojournalist, is on the right side of the screen; a black-clad captor who has been standing to his right (as seen on the TV screen) pushes Koriyama down in an odd sort of way that seems out of character for a terrorist. Koriyama moves a bit, and the captor steps aside.

In so doing he reveals what is to me a damning piece of evidence: an AK-47 assault rifle with its banana clip in place is clearly visible propped against the wall within arm's reach of Koriyama.

It would be absolutely lunatic incompetence for a soldier or terrorist to leave his loaded weapon in such a position if there were any kind of threat in the room. And if it were a hasty oversight, surely one of the other captors would either move the weapon, shoulder it themselves, or have its owner move it out of reach.

This few seconds of tape is telling. To me, it reveals that there was obviously no real threat perceived by the captors; they had no reason to fear a rash action by one of their victims because they had -- in my opinion -- agreed to this scenario beforehand.

It is my analysis that the three were acting -- in their own minds, to be sure -- like the "human shields" that went to iraq before last year's war. Perhaps the chance to become "hostages" and force the Japanese government's hand was just too good to pass up. And with a journalist along to "scoop" the whole thing -- well, sounds like a screenwriter's dream to me.

The above is my opinion, and if anyone can offer conclusive and convincing proof that will explain away the discrepancies I cite, I will publicly retract what I have written.

-- Michael E. Stanley

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Sorry I don't have a source/link for this, as I was forwarded this article.

sage
April 23, 2004, 10:35 AM
Most of the hostages were let go at the end(Mostly non american). One italian hostage were killed as he protested vigorously. Non US hostage incidents were to make a statement at the best.
Though the japanese hostages were antiwar, still it is too risky to plot it that way. Isn't it?

rafiq
April 23, 2004, 12:14 PM
The 3 japanese "hostages" are going to have to pay $6000 each for the costs related to their release plus other fines - they got a cool reception upon their return to japan - maybe there is some truth to this analysis.