A 23-year-old Japanese man who was reportedly trying to join the Islamic State militant group has returned to Japan after being deported by Turkish authorities who captured him close to the Syrian border.
Kyodo News reported that the man, believed to be from Wakayama Prefecture, landed at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture Thursday night.
Upon his arrival, reporters asked the man whether he wanted to join IS. He simply said, “no,” according to Kyodo.
Police plan to interview the man to get further details about his visit, the news agency said.
At a news conference in Tokyo earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed a Japanese citizen was “questioned” by Turkish authorities.
Turkey’s Dogan News Agency also reported that a Japanese man, identified only as M.M., was captured late Tuesday night by Turkish authorities in the southern city of Gaziantep.
The man confessed during an interrogation that he had come to the district to cross the border and join IS, saying he had contacted a Syrian person by phone and had decided to join the jihadi group, Dogan reported.
Suga declined to comment on whether the man was trying to join the IS group, saying Tokyo was still verifying the reports.
Suga also pointed out that the Foreign Ministry is urging Japanese nationals not to enter Syria or the border area on the Turkish side.
“When we find any Japanese citizens who intend to enter Syria, we urge them in person to cancel their trip,” Suga said.
“We didn’t know about this Japanese person in advance,” he added.
Although many Westerners have reportedly sympathized with and joined IS, such a move by a Japanese citizen has to date been rare.
In October 2010, the Public Security Bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department questioned a male Hokkaido University student who had reportedly planned to enter Syria and join the jihadi group.
Meanwhile, the English-language website of Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah carried a photograph of M.M. in which he is wearing glasses and kneeling on the ground with his hands in the air as a soldier with an automatic rifle stands beside him.
The Daily Sabah quoted the state-run Anadolu Agency as reporting that police had confirmed his contacts with IS by examining messages on his cellphone.