Video: Japanese Hostage Threatened with Beheading
Video: Japanese hostage to be beheaded (AP-USA Today)
Video posted Tuesday on a militant Islamic Web site showed what it claimed was a Japanese captive kidnapped by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group and threatened to behead him within 48 hours unless Japan pulls its troops from Iraq.
A group in Iraq believed led by Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has taken a Japanese man hostage, and is threatening to behead him if Tokyo does not remove its troops from Iraq within 48 hours. A video of the hostage was posted on the Internet and aired on an Arabic satellite television network.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi established a crisis center Wednesday morning after learning that a 24-year-old Japanese man was being held hostage in Iraq. Mr. Koizumi says Japan will not adhere to the demands of the militant group, to pull its 500 non-combat troops out of Iraq. Mr. Koizumi says he wants his government to do all it can to free the hostage, but removing the Self Defense Forces from southern Iraq is not an option.
The hostage was identified by his family as Shosei Koda, after a video shot by the captors was shown on Japanese television.
Japan scrambled Wednesday to win the release a 24-year-old Japanese man taken hostage by Islamic militants in Iraq, dispatching high-level diplomats to the Middle East and launching an appeal for his freedom on Arabic television. A man identified as Shosei Koda, an adventure traveler from the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, was shown pleading for his life in a video released to a militant Islamic Web site Tuesday and broadcast on national TV early Wednesday in Japan. Under a sign bearing the name of the radical Muslim group led by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, the hooded kidnappers threatened to behead Koda if Japan did not withdraw its 550 non-combat troops from Iraq within 48 hours. That demand was immediately rejected by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
But the stark images of a terrified Japanese hostage begging for his life on a grainy video was disturbingly familiar for this nation of 128 million, where opposition to the Iraq mission — Japan’s largest military-related operation since World War II — runs deep. Last April, militants kidnapped five Japanese nationals in Iraq in two separate incidents; all were later released unharmed through mediation with local Iraqi clerics. But Koda’s marks the first time a Japanese kidnapping has been linked to the deadly followers of Zarqawi, who have already claimed responsibility for the beheadings of other foreign hostages in Iraq including American Nicholas Berg and Briton Kenneth Bigley.
Why one would “adventure travel” to Iraq is a mystery to me.