ISIS Hostages: A Loner, and a Journalist Who Tried to Save Him

Kenji Goto, Haruna Yukawa caught in crosshairs as Japan, ISIS face off
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2015 3:52 PM CST
Japanese journalist Kenji Goto reports from the outskirts of Kobani, Syria.   (AP Photo/Reportr by Independent Press and Pacific Bridge Media & Consulting)
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(Newser) – The two men are seemingly bound only by three things: Their Japanese nationality, what Reuters calls an "unlikely friendship," and the series of events that led them to their knees in the desert, clad in orange jumpsuits, as a familiar black-clad ISIS fighter said they would die if Japan didn't pay a $200 million ransom. At left in ISIS' latest video is Kenji Goto: A seasoned and respected war-zone journalist who CBS notes has been a key reporter on events in Syria for Japanese media; the owner of his own TV production company; a husband and new father; and a devout Christian who once told an interviewer, "I know that somehow God will always save me." At right is Haruna Yukawa: Reuters calls him a "troubled loner;" a man with no military experience who dreamed of being a military contractor in a deadly locale; and a widower who said as he returned to Syria, "I'm alone in the world, so even if I die, it doesn't matter."

Goto described their meeting in April, in which Yukawa asked him to take him to Iraq so he could experience a war zone, thusly: "He was hapless and didn't know what he was doing. He needed someone with experience to help him." Yukawa later returned to Syria and was kidnapped—an event that Reuters notes "haunted" Goto, who had returned to Japan. Feeling obligated to help, he left behind a newborn daughter in October and set out for Syria, sending a message on Oct. 25 that he had safely crossed the border. There, CBS reports, he "failed to heed warnings"—perhaps naively believing his nationality would shield him, he headed for Raqqa to search for Yukawa, even when a Syrian guide refused to go with him. "Whatever happens, this is my responsibility," he said in a video before he left for Raqqa. Then he was gone.

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