社説:日本人人質殺害 許せない冷血の所業だ

January 26, 2015(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Japanese hostage situation utterly brutal
社説:日本人人質殺害 許せない冷血の所業だ


A photograph of what is purportedly the body of Haruna Yukawa, a hostage of what is believed to be the extremist Islamic State group, was released on the Internet on Jan. 24. The image is utterly brutal.

The militant group's other Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, is seen holding the photograph, as a recording of his voice is played, saying, "Abe, you killed Haruna (Yukawa)."

According to the recording, Islamic State has changed the conditions for Goto's release. It is no longer demanding $200 million, but rather the release of a woman facing the death penalty in Jordan.
Islamic State is striking fear into the hearts of the Japanese people with a gory photo of the body and mocking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's announcement to provide $200 million in non-military aid to Middle East countries fighting the militant group. It is now sitting back and watching Japan's response, waiting for the opportunity to get its "imprisoned sister" back. It is unforgivable. It is barbaric and insidious.

The death-row inmate was arrested for her involvement in terrorist bombings in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005. Because of the many casualties that resulted from the incident, she is not someone Jordanian authorities are willing to release easily. In addition, Jordan is part of a coalition of countries engaged in military operations against Islamic State, and there have been strong calls for the release of a Jordanian air force pilot who was captured by the Islamic State group when his plane went down during a mission.

To agree to a swap of Goto and the death-row inmate before bringing back a soldier from its own military forces would be an extremely difficult decision for Jordan. At the same time, the Abe administration's promise not to give in to terrorism while placing the utmost priority on human life is a challenging one to keep, and negotiations for Goto's release are expected to present serious challenges.

There is also the risk that the kidnappers may change their minds and suddenly cut off hostage negotiations. The actual status of the negotiations is unknown. Under such circumstances, the government must take a realistic approach, making full use of all opportunities and personal networks toward the hostage's release.

It is also necessary to accept the reality that Japan has become a target of terrorism, and implement all possible measures to prevent something like this from happening again. In the past, those who were taken hostage by Islamic State were primarily citizens of the coalition of countries involved in military action against the militant group, such as the U.S. and Britain. It is unusual for Japan, which has not participated in the military operations, to be targeted.

There has been a long-standing notion that Japan's ties with Arab countries are positive, making Japanese nationals unlikely targets of kidnappings and terrorism. There have been exceptions, such as the 1991 murder of University of Tsukuba professor Hitoshi Igarashi -- the Japanese translator of Salman Rushdie's novel, "The Satanic Verses" -- after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran accused the book of blasphemy and issued a fatwa against all those involved in its publication. For the most part, however, there was little tension between Japan and the Muslim world.

However, as new generations came to power and Japan's image as an ally began to blur, especially since the 2000s, terrorist organizations stopped giving special consideration to Japan. Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., kept asking why Japan supported the U.S., after the latter had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now, al-Qaida considers Japan a part of the "crusade" led by the U.S. and Europe.
Among terrorist acts perpetrated by al-Qaida-related groups against Japanese nationals are the 2004 kidnapping and murder of a tourist in demanding the withdrawal of Japan's Self-Defense Forces from Samawah, Iraq, and the 2013 capture and killing of 10 workers at a natural gas plant in Algeria. Regardless, al-Qaida appears to have maintained a relatively restrained approach toward Japan.


Meanwhile, it is obvious that the Islamic State, which broke off from al-Qaida, is ruthless even toward Japanese nationals. We no longer live in a time when we can feel safe, just because we are Japanese. As the many existing terrorist organizations compete against each other in their radicalism and ability to shock, Japan has become a target of terrorism on par with the U.S. and European countries. It is important to consider, also, the possibility that being a peaceful country may make Japan even more vulnerable to attacks.

That does not, however, mean that Japan should change its stance. The extremists are the ones who are misinformed. Japan has long faced up to various Middle East issues, including Arab-Israeli conflicts, with an impartial attitude on an issue-by-issue basis. The capacity to take a peaceful, fair and impartial approach to problems is Japan's greatest asset. We must not lose our footing in face of a hostage's murder, and instead embrace what we have cultivated over the years.

Soon after the shootings at the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, French President Francois Hollande declared that the attack had nothing to do with Islam. He likely feared that the actions of several terrorists would spawn prejudice and hatred toward the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, and lead to serious divisions in society.

In the Japanese hostage case, as with the Paris attacks, we must think seriously about the reality that a barbaric organization is proliferating in the name of Islam and about the U.S.'s responsibility for the current state of affairs.

As the administration of President George W. Bush sank further and further into a quagmire in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorist organizations spread from the Middle East to the African continent.

Hoping to close the curtains on the two wars, the Obama administration is cautious about its involvement in various Middle East issues, and has declared that the U.S. is no longer the policeman of the world.

This approach has had militants reacting with glee, and has most certainly been a major factor in the Islamic State group's expansion.

It is time the world learned from the mistakes of the "war against terrorism" since the Bush administration, and put its wisest minds together to come up with ways to prevent terrorism.

But first, we must secure Goto's release.

毎日新聞 2015年01月26日 02時30分

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