Two hostages seek Iraq return

Aid worker not mad at locals; photographer vows to go on

Kyodo

One of three Japanese abductees freed Thursday in Iraq said she has no ill will toward the Iraqi people despite her ordeal and remains committed to volunteer work.

In an interview Thursday with Qatar-based satellite news channel Al-Jazeera, Nahoko Takato said, as her voice cracked with emotion, “I am very exhausted and shocked” at many things, but that “I just cannot hate the Iraqi people.”

Takato, 34, a volunteer worker from Chitose, Hokkaido, was one of the three Japanese kidnapped last week by a militant group demanding the withdrawal of the Self-Defense Forces troops from Iraq.

The trio were released Thursday through the mediation of the Islamic Clerics Association, a Sunni Muslim organization.

When asked whether she will continue her volunteer work, Takato said, “I will continue.”

Separately, Soichiro Koriyama, another hostage, expressed during the same interview his intent to continue taking photographs in Iraq.

“It is my job to shoot (pictures),” said the 32-year-old freelance photojournalist from Tokyo.

The third hostage is Noriaki Imai, 18, a recent high school graduate from Sapporo.

In the video aired by Al-Jazeera on Thursday, the three burst into tears and shook hands with the Iraqi clerics who had worked to free them, at the Baghdad office of the Islamic Clerics Association.

A tearful Takato repeatedly brushed away tears while Imai and Koriyama shook hands with association spokesman Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, and exchanged words with him.

Later, there were smiles all round when they raised glasses to toast their release.

Tsukasa Uemura, acting Japanese ambassador to Iraq, was also seen in the video.

Meanwhile, a Japanese government source quoted Takato as telling officials after their release that the kidnappers treated the hostages “relatively well.”

The source quoted the three as saying they had been given ample food and moved around to five or six houses during their captivity.