TOKYO – Three Japanese hostages freed last week in Iraq (search) were reunited with their families in Japan Sunday in a low-profile homecoming.
Aid workers Noriaki Imai (search), 18, and Nahoko Takato (search), 34, arrived in Tokyo with photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama (search), 32, after a stop in the United Arab Emirates for medical checks. They were released Thursday.
They were immediately whisked to an undisclosed location to meet loved ones, away from the crush of reporters, television cameras and onlookers that had gathered to greet them.
The three had arrived earlier at Kansai international airport near Osaka, in western Japan, where they silently passed the crowds and kept their eyes downcast on their way to change planes to Tokyo.
The former hostages canceled a scheduled news conference. Lawyers for their families said in a statement that doctors in Dubai had diagnosed the three as having post-traumatic stress disorder.
Their families later told reporters the three needed time to recover from their shock before being asked to recount their weeklong ordeal of being held at gunpoint.
Shuichi Takato described the mental state of his elder sister, Nahoko, as "worse than I had imagined."
"She will need at least a week of rest to recover," he said.
Imai, too, was quite shaken, his elder brother, Yosuke, said.
"When I was speaking to him, there were moments when he just started crying," Yosuke said.
Their return home came a day after two other Japanese hostages in Iraq were released to the same group of Islamic clerics who negotiated the freedom of Imai, Takato and Koriyama.
Freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda and aid worker Nobutaka Watanabe were kidnapped Wednesday. They were handed over to the clerics at a Baghdad mosque and flown Sunday to Amman, Jordan to await a flight to Japan.
"We were not harmed or threatened," Yasuda told reporters Sunday. "They treated us nice."
The hostage-takings posed a major challenge for Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who has sent about 1,000 non-combat troops to help with reconstruction and humanitarian aid in Iraq. Critics say the military deployment -- the first to a combat zone since the end of World War II -- violates the country's constitution renouncing war.
The kidnapping of Imai, Takato and Koriyama dismayed Japan, and television networks repeatedly broadcast clips of a video made by the captors showing the three blindfolded and forced at gunpoint to squat on a concrete floor.
Families of the three hostages pressured Tokyo to pull its forces out of Iraq, but Koizumi refused.