Two days before her daughter was freed Thursday night by her captors in Iraq, 65-year-old Kyoko Takato was apologizing to the public, using words more befitting of the parent of a criminal.

Civilian hostages Nahoko Takato, 34, a volunteer aid worker; Soichiro Koriyama, a 32-year-old freelance photojournalist; and 18-year-old Noriaki Imai, a recent high school graduate, were released Thursday night in Baghdad by gunmen holding them hostage. Their captors had threatened to burn the trio to death unless Japan pulled its Self-Defense Forces troops out of Iraq.

Japan refused to cave in to the gunmen, and did not budge when relatives of the trio came to Tokyo and demanded an SDF pullout for the sake of their loved ones' lives. The trio were later freed unharmed.