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Japan’s leader defends handling of hostage crisis



TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
defended his policy toward terrorism, as the flag at his
official residence flew at half-staff Monday in a mark of
mourning for two hostages killed by the Islamic State
During a long day of parliamentary debate, Abe parried
numerous questions about his handling of the hostage
crisis, which came to a grisly end with news early Sunday
that journalist Kenji Goto had been beheaded by the
Abe said his announcement of $200 million in non-military
aid for the fight against the Islamic State group, made
during a visit to the Middle East just days before the
militants demanded a $200 million ransom for the two
hostages, was meant to convey Japan’s strong
commitment to battling terrorism and fostering peace and
stability in the region.
Some have questioned that decision, saying Abe should
have been more cautious and not mentioned the Islamic
State group by name.
Responding to a question by an opposition lawmaker, Abe
confirmed that he was aware of the hostage situation
when he made the announcement.
Abe said he wished to publicize Japan’s contribution to
the fight against extremism, and rejected the idea of a
more cautious approach.
“As international society seeks to restore peace and
stability in the Middle East … I thought it would be the
most appropriate destination to visit, and that I should
broadcast my message to the world from there,” Abe
said. “I thought announcing Japan’s contribution to fulfill
its responsibility would contribute to the international
community’s effort to fight against terrorism and prevent
its expansion.”
Abe said he did not see an increased terrorist risk
following threats in a purported Islamic State group video
that vowed to target Japanese and make the knife Goto’s
killer was wielding Japan’s “nightmare.”
“The terrorists are criminals,” Abe said. “We are
determined to pursue them and hold them accountable.”
Still, Japan has ordered heightened security precautions
for airports and other public transport and at Japanese
facilities overseas, such as embassies and schools.
The government also has called on journalists and others
in areas near the conflict to withdraw, given the risk of
further kidnappings and other threats.
The flag outside Abe’s official residence was lowered to
half-staff to mourn Goto and the other hostage, gun
aficionado and adventurer Haruna Yukawa, who
reportedly was killed earlier.
Goto’s wife, Rinko Jogo, said in a statement released
Monday that she was devastated but proud of her
Jogo requested privacy for her family as they deal with
their loss, and thanked those who had supported them.
“I remain extremely proud of my husband, who reported
the plight of people in conflict areas like Iraq, Somalia and
Syria,” she said in the statement, issued through the
British-based journalist group Rory Peck Trust.
“It was his passion to highlight the effects on ordinary
people, especially through the eyes of children, and to….continue reading on AP

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