Young people gave a range of opinions Thursday on the decision of a 24-year-old man taken hostage by militants in Iraq to enter the country alone.

Several people criticized hostage Shosei Koda’s behavior, calling it foolish, while others said they could understand his curiosity.

“I think it’s silly to go to Iraq for travel purposes,” said college student Satoshi Fujii, 22, of Fukuoka. Iraq “is not a place one should risk visiting.”

In Sendai, a 23-year-old graduate student who asked not to be named, said: “I can understand if it were people like nongovernmental organization staff or journalists who have a mission and must (travel to Iraq). But (going) out of curiosity and for self-satisfaction cannot be justified.”

Hidetada Shiraki, a 21-year-old vocational school student in Sapporo, said he understood Koda’s actions.

“I think it was silly for him to have chosen such a dangerous path,” Shiraki said. “But from what I’ve heard (from media reports), he didn’t know about the conditions and went there out of curiosity.”

Shinya Oyamada, a 29-year-old company employee in Tokyo, was also sympathetic, saying, “People in their early 20s are enthusiastic and want to challenge things.”

A militant group headed by al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is threatening to behead Koda unless Japan withdraws its Self-Defense Forces troops from Iraq within 48 hours. The message was posted on the Internet around 2 a.m. on Wednesday.

According to information obtained by the government and other sources, Koda went to New Zealand on a working visa and stayed there until August, before moving on to Amman, the capital of Jordan, via Israel. He was reportedly working part time in Amman.

Koda stayed one night last week at the Cliff Hotel in Amman, where many Japanese planning to travel to Iraq have stayed, including Nahoko Takato, one of three Japanese held hostage in Iraq in April.

Koda met film director Hiroshi Shinomiya while he was at the hotel. Shinomiya quoted Koda as saying: “I am going to stay at the house of my Iraqi friend for one week. I don’t have much money.”

The manager said Koda did not have a visa to enter Iraq. Japanese have required visas since August.

He took a bus used by Iraqis that is rarely checked at the Iraqi border.

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