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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Families opposed to U.S. rescue operation


Staff writer

The families of the three Japanese held captive in Iraq urged the government Saturday not to seek any help from U.S. military special units in freeing the hostages.

News photo
Relatives of three Japanese held captive in Iraq hold a news conference Saturday in Tokyo's Nagata-cho district.

At a news conference in Tokyo, the families said such a step would only fuel anti-U.S. feelings among the kidnappers, who have not been identified, and endanger the hostages' lives.

Speaking out were relatives of Noriaki Imai, 18, a freelance writer; Soichiro Koriyama, 32, a freelance photo journalist; and volunteer worker Nahoko Takato, 34.

It was widely reported in Japanese media Saturday that Tokyo has sought cooperation from U.S. special military units to rescue the three.

"If they resort to forcible measures, it could hurt the three hostages and local Iraqi people," said Kimiko Koriyama, mother of the captured photographer. "That's the last thing we want. Please don't do that."

Seven relatives who attended the news conference renewed their call on the government to withdraw the Self-Defense Forces.

The group that took the three hostage sent a video to Arab satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera, in which they threatened to kill their captives unless Japan withdraws the SDF by Sunday night.

Government officials refused to see the families until Saturday night, when Foreign Ministry officials finally arranged a meeting.

The government reaction only fanned the anger of the family members.

The situation is "so delicate" that Koizumi right now has no intention to see the family members, and his intention will not change, a Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying by Shuichi Takato, younger brother of Nahoko Takato.

In addition, Koizumi's denial Friday of his personal responsibility for the crisis also drew strong anger from the family members.

Asked about his responsibility for dispatching the SDF and the subsequent kidnapping, Koizumi told reporters: "This is not a problem concerning myself. This is a problem concerning how the whole country should cope with stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq."

"That (comment) is unforgivable, considering our current sentiment," said Yosuke Imai, the elder brother of hostage Noriaki Imai.

Mrs. Koriyama also blasted the government, saying, "I really feel that (in Koizumi's view) the state comes before human rights of the three now confined. I have no words to describe how I feel."



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