‘You may not return alive,’ Syrian guide warned Japan journalist

‘You may not return alive,’ Syrian guide warned Japan journalist

KILIS, Turkey — Kenji Goto, a journalist who is believed to have been taken hostage by a radical Islamic militant group claiming to be the Islamic State, had a strong will to report on people in the Islamic State-dominated area and left to go there, his Syrian guide told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The guide, a Syrian dissident activist, who said he was with Goto shortly before Goto went missing, told The Yomiuri Shimbun by phone on Tuesday that Goto entered Syria via Turkey in late October.

The guide said that they had known each other for a while, and Goto asked him to be his guide, saying that he wanted to go to the area under the Islamic State control to gather information on Haruna Yukawa, who had been captured by the group in August.

Though the guide told Goto that he might not be able to return alive once he entered the area and repeatedly tried to convince Goto not to go, Goto reportedly did not listen, saying: “I also want to report on people living in the area dominated by the Islamic State. I will be responsible for myself.”

After traveling by minivan on the outskirts of Aleppo, in northern Syria, the guide said he parted with Goto at about 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, in a village close to the Islamic State-dominated area.

From there, Goto reportedly got into a microbus with another guide and headed for the area. Since then, the guide said he has not heard from Goto.

According to the website of Tokyo-based video communication company Independent Press, headed by Goto, Goto is a Sendai native. Launching the company in 1996, he has reported on TV news programs on stories including the Syrian civil war and measures against Somali pirates.

He has also written books on a child soldier in Sierra Leone and a family that survived the Rwandan genocide.

Goto visited Syria in early October as well, and released at least eight videos made over two days, footage of which on the Internet shows the civil war there and people caught up in the conflict. In those videos, Goto adds such comments as “I hope that I can convey the atmosphere here.”

Footage released on Oct. 2 shows Goto tying his hair back and wearing sunglasses. In the video, Goto shows a pass in Syria and says “Without this, I cannot go through areas under the anti-government forces’ control.”

In different footage shot the same day, Goto shows children walking with luggage on a street near the Turkish border, describing them as “Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey.”

On Oct. 3, Goto reported from a Syrian village while it was being attacked by the Islamic State.

Showing people behind trees peering carefully in the direction of their village, Goto explained the scene by saying: “Fleeing people are anxiously watching the situation. The village is surrounded by the Islamic State.”

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