Sun, Sep 04, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Body found in Afghanistan confirmed as Japanese

AFP , KABUL

A body found in southern Afghanistan this week was confirmed yesterday to be that of a missing Japanese man, as doctors worked on determining the identity of the woman's body found with him.

The Japanese teachers -- named by their school as technical arts teacher Jun Fukusho, 44, and female English teacher Shinobu Hasegawa, 30 -- were reported missing after they failed to return from a holiday in the region last month.

"The dental record of the male completely matched with the body. The doctor has not started with the autopsy of the woman," an official at the Japanese embassy said.

The pair had been shot and their bodies dumped near the Spin Boldak highway, which links the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar with the Pakistani border town of Chaman, where the couple had crossed into Afghanistan on Aug. 8.

Two coffins arrived in Kabul for a post-mortem late on Friday and doctors began work this morning after a provincial official in Kandahar said he strongly believed the bodies found late Thursday were those of the missing tourists.

"The doctor has finished with the male one, and will now start work on the woman's body. Yesterday we took some samples for DNA testing to send to Tokyo but we already had the dental records," the embassy official said.

Media reports in Tokyo have said the teachers apparently set out on their own in a taxi to see the remains of the Bamiyan Buddhas, a set of huge 1,500-year-old structures dynamited by the hardline Taliban regime in 2001.

The Japanese arrived in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Aug. 6 and shortly afterward contacted their families in Hiroshima for the first and last time, officials said.

They were due to return to Japan on Aug. 19 but did not, leading their families to ask the government for help.

Southern Afghanistan is wracked by violence linked to militants from the Taliban, who were ousted by US-led forces in late 2001. More than 1,000 people have died so far this year ahead of key elections on Sept. 18.

Japan, a close US ally, discourages its citizens from visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan due to safety concerns.

Al-Qaeda militants have repeatedly threatened Japan and in October last year beheaded a 24-year-old Japanese tourist who was abducted in Iraq.

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