• Kyodo

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A Japanese photographer claimed Thursday he was held by gunmen in Fallujah, Iraq, for two hours in mid-July but was released unharmed.

Speaking of his experience at a meeting of an antinuclear group in Hiroshima, Takashi Morizumi said: “What the United States is really doing is suppressing freedom and democracy. There is strong anti-U.S. sentiment among the Iraqis and they feel it was just Saddam (Hussein) being replaced by the United States.”

Morizumi said he was taking photos in Fallujah on July 18 when five or six Iraqis armed with guns in two vehicles stopped him. He and his Iraqi guide were blindfolded and taken to a nearby residence.

At the house, they were given juice and other drinks. After about two hours, a member of the group, in his 30s, apologized and said residents felt bitter toward foreigners because 14 people had been killed in U.S. bombings that morning.

The group then released Morizumi and his guide unharmed and without making any demands.

Morizumi said he had obtained consent from local leaders prior to his day visit to Fallujah.

While they were being held by the militants, the guide assured him they would not be harmed, but Morizumi said, “I thought that perhaps this might be the end.”

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