Iran says abducted Japanese man spoke to family

TEHRAN (Reuters) – A Japanese student kidnapped by bandits in Iran is healthy and has spoken to his family in the past few days, an Iranian official said on Sunday.

The 23-year-old man was abducted in October while traveling in the southeastern province of Kerman, a region notorious for clashes between security forces and drug smugglers.

“The gentleman is healthy and he has been able to talk to his family within the past two or three days,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a weekly news conference.

Iran was continuing its efforts to secure his release, Hosseini added without giving further details.

Iranian officials have previously ruled out any deal with his abductors after reports the bandits had offered to exchange the student for the jailed son of their leader.

A government spokesman said in October that he had been taken to Pakistan by his abductors but officials have since said he has been moved around in the border region.

Southeastern Iran has been the scene of numerous clashes between the military and well-armed drug smugglers.

Iran’s border regions with Afghanistan and Pakistan are a major smuggling route for drugs and other contraband. More than 3,300 Iranian security personnel have died in the region fighting drug traffickers since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

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