Japanese hostage’s killer faces charges in Iraq

CAIRO (Kyodo) The Iraqi Interior Ministry’s special forces have served an arrest warrant on a man who said he committed the 2004 execution of Japanese hostage Shosei Koda, Iraqi television al-Iraqiya reported Sunday night.

An Iraqi security forces official said the suspect, Hussein Fahmi Badr, already charged with other murders, is suspected of involvement in the slaying of scores of Iraqis and foreign nationals.

The broadcaster reported he has committed a large number of crimes, including beheading Koda, 24, and airing images of the suspect saying, “I have killed a Japanese. So what?”

The ministry told an official at the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad on Friday that Badr would be charged with killing Koda.

Badr allegedly said March 2 while in detention that those who have sent troops to Iraq “have to be killed.”

Badr said his group belongs to a militant organization led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is linked to al-Qaida.

A Baghdad police official quoted Badr as saying he thought Koda, a private citizen with no affiliation with the government or any other organization, might have come to Iraq as a spy.

Images of Koda from a video posted on a Web site Oct. 26, 2004, appeared on television in Japan and elsewhere after he was taken hostage in Iraq by a group linked to al-Qaida.

In the video, he addressed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, saying, “They demand Japan withdraw its Self-Defense Forces from Iraq, and they said unless that is done, they will behead me.”

Koizumi refused to comply with the demand. Japan has deployed up to 600 Ground Self-Defense Force troops in the southern city of Samawah for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.

Koda’s decapitated body was found Oct. 30, 2004, in Baghdad.

Koda, who reportedly said before entering Iraq he wanted to “see what is going on” there, was the fifth Japanese killed in Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Two diplomats were assassinated in November 2003 and two freelance journalists were ambushed and slain in May 2004.