Akihiko Saito

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Akihiko Saito
Akihiko Saito FFL photo.jpg
Akihiko Saito in the mid 1980s when he was with the French Foreign Legion's 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment.
Born(1961-01-05)5 January 1961
Died9 May 2005(2005-05-09) (aged 44)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds sustained in a Jaish Ansar al-Sunna-planned ambush
  • 1st Airborne Brigade paratrooper, JGSDF (Former)
  • 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment soldier, French Foreign Legion, French Army (Former)
  • Hart Security Ltd. Security contractor
RelativesHironobu Saito (brother)

Akihiko Saito (斎藤昭彦, Saitō Akihiko, January 5, 1961 – May 9, 2005) was a Japanese security specialist adviser who was taken hostage by the Jaish Ansar al-Sunna in Iraq in 2005.[1]

Saito's abduction and subsequent death came as a shock to the Japanese public who were surprised to find out that a former member of the Japanese Self-Defence Force was operating as a private security officer in Iraq.[2]

Early life[edit]

Prior to entering the French Foreign Legion, Akihiko served in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) in the 1st Airborne Brigade in 1979[3][4][5] before he left in 1981.[6] Akihiko was subsequently recruited into the ranks of the Legion on June 1983.[7]

He then served in the French Foreign Legion for 20 years[8] with the rank of Chief Adjutant (French: Adjudant-Chef) before his departure.[9] Saito was notably deployed with the French Foreign Legion's 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment, where he served in numerous combat operations in Africa.[7] During his time with the Legion, he was based at Calvi/Corsica.[5]


Akihiko Saito had been working for Hart Security Ltd.,[8] a Cyprus-based[10] British firm as a security specialist (under contract to PWC Logistics at the Abu Ghraib Warehouse Distribution Center near Baghdad International Airport) since December 2004 until his abduction by armed Jaish Ansar al-Sunna militants.[11] He was ambushed alongside five other foreign contractors (mostly South African).[12] However those foreign contractors were part of a convoy including twelve additional Iraqi security contractors along with five Iraqi truck drivers they were hired to safeguard; in total twenty three were killed in the ambush that took place in the town of Hit.[13]

He was eventually killed by Jaish Ansar al-Sunna militants in a video released on the internet.[14]


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,[15] the Japanese Foreign Ministry,[16] the Japanese National Police Agency and Hart Security.[17]

According to Al Jazeera, his presence in Iraq may have been used to legitimize the deployment of Japanese troops to Iraqi soil.[2] His death was condemned by the Iraqi government.[18] The Japanese government had condemned his death, saying that it will do little to hamper JSDF deployment to Iraq.[19]

He was the sixth Japanese worker in Iraq to be taken hostage; two others had been killed and three released unharmed.[15] While about 600 JGSDF personnel were in Iraq at any time,[15] none had been killed when they withdrew in July 2006.[20]

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.[13] 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.[19]


  1. ^ "Japanese hostage confirmed dead". British Broadcasting Corporation. May 28, 2005. Archived from the original on 2009-06-15. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Gavin Blair (May 25, 2005). "Japanese media glorifies Iraq hostage". Al Jazeera. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  3. ^ Dai Kaneko (2008-02-16). "Expatriates find uneasy refuge in Foreign Legion". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  4. ^ "Akihiko Saito". Khaleej Times. Archived from the original on 2005-05-27. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Kidnapping reveals a Japanese warrior". The Japan Times. May 11, 2005. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  6. ^ Reiji Yoshida (May 12, 2005). "Saito just one of many Japanese in French Foreign Legion: ex-legionnaire". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Le Japon sans nouvelles du "soldat" Saito, disparu en Irak". Libération (in French). 2005-05-17. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  8. ^ a b Burns, John F. (May 11, 2005). "Iraq Legislators Set Up Panel to Draft a Constitution". The New York Times. www.nytimes.com. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  9. ^ Saito just one of many Japanese in French Foreign Legion: ex-legionnaire. Retrieved on April 25, 2008. Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Roberts, Joel (May 10, 2005). "Iraq Militants Strike Back". www.cbsnews.com: CBSNEWS WORLD. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  11. ^ Kanako Takahara of the Japan Times (May 10, 2005). "JAPAN: Japanese Security Specialist Kidnapped in Iraq". Corp Watch. Archived from the original on 2007-10-20. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  12. ^ "U.S. attack rages a 3rd day in Iraq". The New York Times. May 11, 2005. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Linda Sleg (May 10, 2005). "Japan unfazed by alleged hostage-takers". Independent Online. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  14. ^ "Japanese hostage held in Iraq is murdered". The Telegraph. London. May 28, 2005. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c Deborah Cameron (May 30, 2005). "Japanese hostage killed in Iraq". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved June 15, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Deborah Cameron (May 30, 2005). "Body of gun-for-hire hostage identified". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 2012-11-13. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  17. ^ Jonathan Finer and Anthony Faiola (May 29, 2005). "Japanese Contractor Is Feared Slain in Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  18. ^ "Iraqi govt condemns killing of Japanese hostage". Xinhua News. May 28, 2005. Archived from the original on 2013-11-16. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "Japan Won't Pull Troops Over Kidnapping". British Ministry of Defence Oracle. May 10, 2005. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  20. ^ "Japan to withdraw its 600 troops from Iraq". USA Today. June 20, 2006. Retrieved June 15, 2013.