National

Iraq suspect admits beheading hostage

AMMAN (Kyodo) A man believed to be a member of a group close to al-Qaida has admitted killing Japanese backpacker Shosei Koda, 24, in 2004, saying the victim was beheaded because Japan did not comply with a demand to withdraw its troops from Iraq, a senior Baghdad police official said Thursday.

Hussein Fahmi Badr, who has been detained by Iraqi authorities, was also quoted by the official as saying he thought Koda, a private citizen who did not belong to any nongovernmental or media organization, may have come to Iraq as a spy.

Badr said he was asked to kill Koda in return for money from a different group that abducted him, according to the official.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo the government has not heard from Iraq that a suspect in the slaying has been arrested.

“We are making an inquiry to the Iraqi Interior Ministry about the facts and are waiting for a response,” Abe said. He said the case will basically be investigated by Iraqi authorities and judged based on Iraqi laws.

Koda was abducted in Iraq and a group linked to the al-Qaida network threatened to behead him unless Japan withdrew its troops from Iraq “within 24 hours” in a video posted on a Web site on Oct. 26, 2004.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi refused to comply with the demand. Japan has hundreds of Ground Self-Defense Force troops stationed in southern Iraq on a reconstruction mission.

A decapitated body later identified as Koda’s was found four days later in Baghdad.

Badr, who was being interrogated about abductions and murders of Muslims in Iraq, started to admit killing Koda, saying he “also killed a Buddhist,” the police official said.

“I tried to behead him using a knife, but another member took over,” he was quoted by the official as saying.

Hearing the news, Koda’s father said in Fukuoka Prefecture he felt “only emptiness.”

“I had feelings of anger against the criminals, but I do not feel happy because of the capture,” Masumi Koda said in a statement released by Nogata, Fukuoka Prefecture, where he lives. “Now I just feel only emptiness, wondering why my son had to be killed.”

Police officials who met with Koda’s parents in the morning said they seemed to have learned about the news from television and other media, and appeared calm.

Koda, who is thought to have visited Iraq out of curiosity, was the fifth Japanese to be killed in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Two diplomats were killed in November 2003 and two freelance journalists in May 2004.

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