The three Japanese civilian hostages freed Thursday after eight days of captivity in Iraq arrived Sunday in Tokyo, apologizing for causing trouble and expressing gratitude for efforts made to secure their release.
Soichiro Koriyama, 32, a photojournalist from Tokyo, Nahoko Takato, 34, a volunteer aid worker from Chitose, Hokkaido, and Noriaki Imai, 18, a recent high school graduate from Sapporo, arrived at Kansai International Airport from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, just after 5:15 p.m. and then shortly afterward flew on a connecting flight to Tokyo’s Haneda airport.
The three were accompanied by two relatives who met them in Dubai on Saturday, and Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa, who had been in Amman to deal with the hostage crisis.
The trio reunited with other kin upon arrival at Haneda.
Koriyama, Takato and Imai looked relaxed when they boarded their plane at Dubai International Airport. Takato was with her brother, Shuichi, 33, and Imai with his brother, Yosuke, 23.
But the three, who underwent two days of health checks at the American Hospital in Dubai before flying to Japan, were still too emotionally and physically distraught to discuss their ordeal, their families and lawyers said.
Both the three and their relatives did not say a word as they emerged from the arrival gate and headed for immigration control at Kansai airport, where more than 150 reporters and security guards jostled for position.
They did not show up in a news conference after their arrival at Haneda, and their relatives and lawyer read out statements from them instead.
“I deeply apologize for causing so much trouble to the people of Japan and the world, and I want to express my gratitude for the people who made efforts for our release,” Shuichi Takato quoted his sister as saying.
In the statement, Takato said she was still at a loss about the overall picture of the hostage ordeal, and added that she would talk when her condition improves.
Shuichi Takato said his sister has suffered tremendous trauma from the crisis and will need at least a week to recuperate.
Both Imai and Koriyama released similar statements via their families and a lawyer, apologizing for the trouble caused by the hostage crisis.
Satoru Saito, a psychiatrist who attended the news conference, said the three suffer from nightmares and other psychological problems.
In particular, Takato is emotionally unstable, and there are signs that she suffers from acute stress disorder, he said.
The three were held hostage by gunmen identifying themselves as Saraya al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Brigades) for more than a week around Fallujah, west of Baghdad, and were released Thursday at a mosque in the capital.
They were then taken to the Japanese Embassy in Baghdad and flown to Dubai on a chartered plane Friday. Relatives of two of them arrived in Dubai Saturday to meet them.
Meanwhile, Aisawa, after reporting to Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi at the Foreign Ministry, reiterated that the government wants Japanese nationals not to enter Iraq “under any circumstances.”
Just as Koriyama, Imai and Takato arrived back in Japan, the two other Japanese freed Saturday — freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda and Nobutaka Watanabe, a member of a nongovernmental organization — arrived in Amman from Baghdad en route to Japan.
Yasuda and Watanabe were freed Saturday near Baghdad and taken to a mosque in the city before being turned over to the Japanese Embassy.
Yasuda and Watanabe said they were seized Wednesday while traveling in a taxi from Baghdad to Abu-Greib to take photos of a downed U.S. military helicopter west of the capital.
Initially after their release, both said they wanted to remain in Baghdad, where they were sharing an apartment, to continue their work.
However, embassy officials said they later persuaded to fly back to Japan.
Ad info covered over
SAPPORO (Kyodo) Stickers have been placed on hanging subway train ads for the weekly magazine Shukan Shincho in Sapporo to hide personal information on the three Japanese who arrived back home Sunday after being released from captivity in Iraq, Sapporo City Transportation Bureau officials said.
The move was taken because the information in the advertisements infringes on their privacy and goes against ad standards, the officials said.