FUKUOKA – The body of slain Japanese hostage Shosei Koda arrived Wednesday evening at Fukuoka airport, where his parents had waited.
The body had been transported to Kuwait City from Baghdad earlier in the day by the U.S. military, and was carried on an airliner to Kansai International Airport via Dubai.
Koda’s father, Masumi, 54, and mother, Setsuko, 50, were at Fukuoka airport when the body arrived at around 8:30 p.m.
Fukuoka Prefectural Police have said they plan to conduct an autopsy on the decapitated corpse.
Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shuzen Tanigawa, who led a Japanese task force in Amman trying to gain Koda’s release from terrorists in Iraq, received Koda’s body in Kuwait from the U.S. military and accompanied it on the flight to Japan.
Koda’s parents announced Wednesday they will hold a wake for their son Thursday night and the funeral Friday.
His father released a statement through officials of the city of Nogata, saying, “We are totally devastated over the news of his death and we do not quite know how to express our feelings.
“We offer our apologies for causing many people real strain concerning the incident, and we are profoundly grateful for those who supported us,” the statement said.
The Islamic militant group led by Jordanian-born al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility in a statement posted on a Web site Tuesday for Koda’s execution and repeated its demand that Japan pull its troops out of Iraq.
The group also released video footage on the site showing the 24-year-old Koda being beheaded by three masked men as he knelt on an American flag with his hands tied behind his back.
The terrorists had threatened in a video posted on the Web site Oct. 27 Japan time to behead Koda unless Japan withdraws its Self-Defense Forces troops from the southern Iraqi city of Samawah within 48 hours. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rejected the demand.
In the video, the group said, “We gave the Japanese government a deadline to rescue its citizen and respond to our demands. After the expiry of the deadline, we had to sever the head of this infidel.”
Government officials denied that Japan had offered “millions of dollars” to save Koda, as the gunmen had claimed.
“No way did we offer a ransom,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday evening, adding, “The purpose of al-Zarqawi is to confuse Japan.
“It is only too clear that if we had offered a ransom to al-Zarqawi, he would have made it known all over the world that Japan is a country that easily offers money in the face of a hostage incident,” the official said.
The senior official admitted Tokyo had some contact with the captors but said not enough progress was made for the issue of a ransom to be taken up.
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