Jan 24, 2015 11:58 PM

Father of Japanese hostage reported killed still hopeful

The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) The father of the Japanese hostage purportedly shown in a video as having been killed by Islamic State militants is hoping against hope his son could still be alive.

"My mind went totally blank," Shoichi Yukawa told reporters Sunday, a day after news broke of the video footage. "I am hoping deep in my heart that it is not true."

Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer, was taken hostage in Syria last year.

The Associated Press has not verified the contents of the video, which varied greatly from previous videos released by the Islamic State group. It holds a third of both Syria and Iraq. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the video was likely authentic and demanded the militants release the other hostage, reporter Kenji Goto, 47.

The Islamic State group had threatened to behead Yukawa and Goto unless it received a $200 million ransom.

"If I am ever reunited with him, I just want to give him a big hug," Yukawa told Japanese TV stations. He requested his face not be shown.

He also apologized for the troubles his son had caused in Japan. Although Yukawa was kidnapped last year, he quickly faded from the Japanese media coverage, widely seen as going to a dangerous place at his own risk. However, the news he may have been killed amid a high stake diplomatic drama to save the two hostages has traumatized a nation accustomed to peaceful policies and relatively low crime.

The younger Yukawa had written on his blog and social networks about what appeared to be a troubled past that took him to the Middle East to join fighting. He said he went after his wife died of an illness.

A photo on his Facebook page shows him holding a Kalashnikov rifle somewhere in the Middle East. He also said that earlier he had suffered so much from a sense of failure that he became suicidal and tried to mutilate his genitals.

In a video posted by Goto before he left Japan to try to rescue Yukawa, Goto pleaded that no matter what happens to him, the people of Syria should not be blamed because they have suffered enough.

The older Yukawa said he hoped Goto, who has devoted his life to interviewing ordinary people in the Middle East, would come home safely.

"I hope for that. And not a minute too soon," he said.


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama


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