Japanese diplomat stationed in Yemen stabbed in failed kidnapping

Japanese officials say a diplomat was stabbed, though not injured seriously when he fought back during a failed kidnapping attempt near the Japanese embassy in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, Sunday.

Hani Mohammed/AP
A policeman stands guard at the gate of a hospital where a Japanese diplomat is being treated after assailants stabbed him in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday.

Assailants stabbed a Japanese diplomat stationed in Yemen's capital Sunday when he fought back during a failed kidnapping attempt, officials said, the latest unrest in a country beset by al-Qaida militants.

The kidnappers attacked the diplomat not far from the Japanese Embassy in Sanaa, later fleeing with the man's car, a security official said.

The official did not provide the diplomat's name but said he was taken to hospital and that his injuries were not serious. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak publicly to journalists.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato confirmed that an embassy official was attacked by an unspecified number of armed robbers as he tried to get into his car.

"We are still in the process of confirming and gathering information about the attack," Sato said. He declined to give further details, though he noted that Japan's Foreign Ministry has issued a safety warning to Japanese tourists and residents in the area, citing the increasing danger of attack.

Yemeni media identified the diplomat as Katsusuke Sotomini, as did an official at the embassy in Sanaa who spoke on condition of anonymity due to regulations. An Associated Press journalist some 200 meters (220 yards) away from the embassy found blood stains where the attack apparently took place.

Dr. Atiq al-Maori of the Saudi-Germany Hospital in Sanaa said the diplomat suffered "multiple injuries" to his forearm and shoulder in the attack.

"We will keep him for observation to continue the treatment," the doctor said. "His medical situation is stable."

Abductions are frequent in Yemen, an impoverished nation where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages to swap for prisoners or cash. Yemen is engaged in a rocky political transition since longtime autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in 2012 following mass popular protests.

The country's political turmoil has created a security vacuum, which al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south. The U.S. regularly carries out drone strikes in the country targeting who it says are militants belonging to the group.

On Dec. 5, al-Qaida militants stormed the Defense Ministry in Sanaa, killing 52 people, including at least seven foreigners.

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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