Fallen reporter’s partner speaks of Syria violence

Kyodo

Japanese journalist Kazutaka Sato said Tuesday he and his partner, Mika Yamamoto, saw Syrian Air Force fighter jets bombing the northern city of Aleppo the previous day, shortly before Yamamoto was gunned down.

“It was the first time that I witnessed fighter jets divebombing the center of a city,” the 56-year-old journalist told reporters in Kilis, southern Turkey, a day Yamamoto, 45, was killed while covering the civil war in Syria. “This is what a state is doing against its citizens.

“It was a sight that I had never experienced earlier,” he said. “I was shaking from the pit of my stomach.”

Sato added, “I was surprised to see such immense violence (by government forces).”

Yamamoto’s video camera, found after the shooting, showed footage capturing what appeared to be government troops approaching her, but the screen went blank the moment she was shot and her voice was not included in the sound recorded in the video, Sato said.

As veteran war correspondents covering the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and other battlefields, Sato and Yamamoto were not only coworkers for a Tokyo-based independent media group, The Japan Press, but also common-law husband and wife.

Yamamoto’s body is expected to be taken from Turkey to Japan a few days after an autopsy was performed, possibly Wednesday, he said.

Her sisters left Japan on Wednesday for Istanbul with the intention of returning with the body.