The mother and elder brother of Shosei Koda, a Japanese traveler being held captive in Iraq, came to Tokyo on Thursday evening to meet with foreign media and government officials ahead of the 48-hour deadline placed on Koda’s life.
At the suggestion of Foreign Ministry officials, Setsuko Koda, 50, and her son Maki, 26, of Nogata, Fukuoka Prefecture, came to Tokyo to plea for the 24-year-old’s life. Koda’s father, Masumi, stayed at home.
They made a live appearance on Qatar-based TV station Al-Jazeera and were also scheduled to hold a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Friday.
The family was thrust into the media spotlight on Wednesday, when Koda’s captors posted video footage on their Web site saying that they would behead him if Japan did not withdraw its Self-Defense Forces from Iraq within 48 hours. Al-Jazeera first reported it.
The militants are linked with the al-Qaeda international terror organization, whose base in Iraq is referred to on a banner in the background of the video. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda ally who is said to be directing terrorist attacks in Iraq, runs the group in Iraq.
It was unclear when the deadline would actually expire. Japanese government officials believe it to be Thursday night in Iraq, or the early hours of Friday, Japan time.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the government was making every effort to rescue Koda, although it had no clue where he was being held.
“The government as a whole is doing its utmost,” Koizumi told reporters. “I’m anxious as they have ruthlessly killed hostages in the past.”
The prime minister has already said he would not give in to the withdrawal demand.
Koda’s family has received telephone calls criticizing Koda for going to Iraq.
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