Award-winning Mika Yamamoto gunned down

Syrian strife claims noted Japan reporter

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Mika Yamamoto, an award-winning veteran journalist, has been killed during a clash in Aleppo in northern Syria, where rebels and forces loyal to the Syrian government have been fighting.

The Foreign Ministry in Tokyo confirmed her death Tuesday morning.

Yamamoto, 45, was killed Monday while she was covering violence in the region together with freelance journalist Kazutaka Sato, who reported Yamamoto’s death to the ministry.

Sato told a Japanese TV station that a group dressed in camouflage gear approached Yamamoto and other journalists, who were from many countries, and suddenly opened fire from a range of 20 to 30 meters.

“I told her to run. It could have been less than 20 or 30 meters” between Yamamoto and the attackers, Sato told NTV.

The gunfire prompted the other journalists to scatter, according to Sato.

Like Sato, Yamamoto belonged to the Tokyo-based independent media group The Japan Press, providing news from Syria for NTV.

The Japanese Embassy in Ankara said early Tuesday that the body of a Japanese woman killed in Syria was later delivered to Turkey and confirmed to be that of Yamamoto.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday morning that the government confirmed the slain journalist was Yamamoto.

Yamamoto was known for her coverage of conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Uganda, spanning more than 15 years.

She received the special prize of the Vaughn-Uyeda Memorial Prize for contributions made by Japanese journalists in the field of international affairs in fiscal 2003.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier said that a Japanese female reporter had died in Aleppo and that three other journalists were missing, including two Arabs — one a Lebanese woman — and a Turkish reporter.

“She was seriously wounded Monday while covering the clashes at Suleiman al-Halabi, which have been going on since yesterday. We took her to hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries,” Rami Abdel Rahmane, the Observatory’s president, told AFP-Jiji, citing medical officials from the hospital.

“She was very likely hit by a projectile,” added Rahmane, who was unable to give further details about the missing journalists.

The death of Yamamoto was first reported Monday by Al-Arabiya television and Al-Jazeera satellite TV.

Al-Jazeera later named the journalist as Yamamoto and showed footage of the body of an apparent Asian woman lying in what appeared to be an ambulance.

A video posted by militants on YouTube showed a female body lying in a room.

It was presented as the corpse of the Japanese journalist, and said she was killed by militia allied to President Bashar Assad’s troops.

A prominent wound could be seen on her right arm. Next to her, an Asian-looking man appeared to be asking for medical assistance.

Born in Yamanashi Prefecture in 1967, Yamamoto graduated from Tsuru University and joined The Japan Press in 1996 after working as a director at a cable TV broadcaster.