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Brother Confirms Japanese Kidnap Victim's Death

Akihiko Saito in a 1988 French Foreign Legion photograph
The brother of a Japanese kidnap victim who disappeared in Iraq this month has confirmed the man's death, from pictures of a bloodied corpse displayed on an Internet site used by Islamic militants.

Government officials in Baghdad condemned the killing of Akihiko Saito, a 44-year-old former Japanese soldier who had been working as a security guard in Iraq. He was abducted nearly three weeks ago during an ambush attack on a convoy he was guarding.

Japan has not yet confirmed Mr. Saito's death, but Japanese diplomats in Baghdad and in Tokyo say it is "very likely" that he was killed. In addition to video images of what appears to be the man's body, a website that carries messages from the militant group Army of Ansar al-Sunna also has displayed pictures of Mr. Saito's passport and other identification papers.

The militant group says the Japanese hostage died of gunshot wounds.

Mr. Saito was the sixth Japanese national kidnapped in Iraq since last year, when Tokyo assigned 500 troops to humanitarian assignments in the war zone.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.