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The captors said they will give the Japanese government 48 hours to comply
The country's most feared militant group released a video today showing a frightened young Japanese civilian saying he would be beheaded if Japan did not withdraw its troops from Iraq. The captors said they will give the Japanese government 48 hours to comply. The kidnapping by the group led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi returned the issue of Japan's troop deployment to the forefront in that country, at a time when the Japanese government is sensitive about popular criticism of its decision to send soldiers to Iraq. About 550 members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are stationed in the relatively calm southern city of Samawa, in the Shiite Arab heartland. The Japanese government says the troops are here on a strictly humanitarian mission, charged with rebuilding schools and helping improve sewage drainage and water supplies. Though small, the Japanese deployment holds strong diplomatic significance for the Japanese government, which is pushing to transform its Self-Defense Forces into a real military and has lobbied for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, informs the NYTimes. According to Reuters, British troops and armour have rolled north from Basra to take over a deadly area near Baghdad and free up U.S. troops for a widely expected attack on the Iraqi rebel-held city of Falluja. A column with Warrior armoured vehicles on flatbed trucks took to the road, a Reuters photographer said on Wednesday. The Warriors were fitted with an extra slat of armour to deflect rocket-propelled grenades -- a weapon of choice for Iraqi guerrillas. "The deployment has begun," said a British Defence Ministry spokesman. "For operational reasons I can give no further details. But they will be back for Christmas." About 850 British troops, mainly from the Black Watch regiment, are deploying in a restive region just south of Baghdad, allowing U.S. troops to reinforce units fighting guerrillas in the Sunni Muslim city of Falluja and elsewhere. U.S. forces would spearhead any assault on Falluja, which Iraq's U.S-backed interim government has vowed to retake as part of a drive to pacify the country before national assembly elections planned for January. Kidnappers have seized scores of foreigners since April in a campaign to try and force U.S.-led troops and foreign workers to leave Iraq. More than 35 hostages have been killed. Japan insisted yesterday it would not bow to the demands of militants in Iraq who threatened to behead a young Japanese unless Tokyo pulls its troops from the country within 48 hours. ?The Self-Defence Forces will not withdraw,¦ Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a staunch US ally, said as he went ahead with a tour of typhoon damage in western Japan. ?We must not bow to terrorism.¦ The Al Qaeda-linked group of Iraq-s most wanted man Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi released a video overnight on the Internet of a shaggy-haired Japanese-speaking man in a white T-shirt, at the feet of three armed and masked men. ?We are giving the Japanese government 48 hours in which to withdraw its troops from Iraq, otherwise this infidel will join the others (executed),¦ a rebel said in the video. Among the others, the rebel mentioned the American Nicholas Berg and Briton Kenneth Bigley, who were both decapitated. The Japanese man said on the video: ?Mr Koizumi, they demand the Japanese government withdraw the Japanese Self-Defence Forces from Iraq or they will chop off my head. ?I-m sorry, but I want to come back to Japan,¦ he said unemotionally in Japanese. Japan identified the hostage as Shosei Koda, a 24-year-old from southern Fukuoka province who ?has been wandering around many countries¦, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the government spokesman. Koda had been in New Zealand on a working holiday until July but had not been in contact since, his father said, according to the Foreign Ministry, reports times of Oman.
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