Iraqi boy to arrive Friday for treatment of damaged eye

Kyodo

A 10-year-old Iraqi boy who was to be brought to Japan for eye treatment by two journalists slain in Iraq last week will arrive in Japan on Friday, sources close to the case said Monday.

The boy, Mohamad Haytham Saleh, was originally scheduled to come to Japan on Tuesday, but the death of his sponsors threw his departure into jeopardy.

The Japanese Embassy in Baghdad helped to rearrange his trip, according to the sources.

The two journalists — 61-year-old Shinsuke Hashida and his nephew, 33-year-old Kotaro Ogawa — had visited Iraq to take Mohamad to a Japanese hospital for surgery, as well as to carry out reporting work.

The boy lost the sight in his left eye as a result of a U.S. military operation in November.

The two journalists and their driver and interpreter — both Iraqis — were attacked Thursday while they were traveling through Mahmudiyah, about 30 km south of Baghdad. They were returning from Samawah, where Japanese troops are stationed.

Only the driver survived the attack.

In Japan, Masaki Hitosugi of the Numazu Rotary Club in Shizuoka Prefecture, which will host Mohamad, voiced relief upon hearing he will be coming after all.

“I hope he has a safe trip,” he said.

The boy’s father, who is expected to travel with him, has called on the Japanese media to refrain from using flash photography upon their arrival in Japan because of the boy’s eye injury.

Rotary club officials will pick up Mohamad at Narita airport, with the club planning to launch a public fundraising drive for his operation.

Doctors at Seirei Numazu Hospital, which will provide the treatment, held a preparatory meeting in the morning.

“He is a child, and we want to provide treatment to reduce his pain,” said Masumi Mori, an official in the hospital’s general affairs section.

On Sunday, Mohamad mourned for the two journalists.