Former hostage to help rebuild Fallujah school

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One of the three Japanese taken hostage in Iraq in April and later freed said Tuesday that she plans to return to the war-torn country to resume her humanitarian work.

Nahoko Takato said at a news conference that she wants to organize the rebuilding of a school in Fallujah, using part of the money sent to the three former hostages from people across Japan.

There is 8 million yen left from the donations, and the reconstruction of the school is estimated to cost about 5 million yen, she said.

Takato came up with the idea to rebuild the school during a one-month stay in Amman, Jordan, in August, where she had a series of meetings with Iraqi friends to make arrangements to carry out the plan, she said.

Asked if she plans to go to Iraq herself, she said that she wants to go back.

“I still have lots to do in Iraq,” said Takato, who had been helping street children in Baghdad since April 2003. “I feel as if I have left a kettle on the fire.”

Takato was captured on April 7, along with photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama and high school graduate Noriaki Imai, by a group of Iraqi insurgents who threatened to kill them unless Japan withdrew its Ground Self-Defense Force troops from the southern city of Samawah.

Although the Japanese government rejected the captors’ demands, the three were released unharmed on April 15.

After coming back to Japan, Takato suffered severe stress from her experience, aggravated by public criticism that the trio had failed to act responsibly in entering Iraq despite being warned not to do so.

Takato said she felt that the concept of personal responsibility discussed in the media was different from her understanding of the term.

Takata claimed that for her, the concept entails that a person should not complain if an individual choice proves fatal. She added that she has held this belief all of her life.

Takato published a book last month, detailing her captivity in Iraq and the mental recovery and soul-searching she went through after she was released.

The book also contains the blog from her Web site, which was begun when she first set foot in Iraq in 2003.