A portrait of Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto is shown on a large monitor screen in Tokyo Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 during a TV news broadcast reporting her death in Syria. (Photo: AP)
The body of a veteran Japanese war reporter killed while covering the anti-regime movement in Syria's second city was flown home on Saturday.
Mika Yamamoto apparently came under fire Monday from pro-government troops in Aleppo, which has borne the brunt of the conflict since fighting erupted there last month, according to her long-time colleague Kazutaka Sato.
"I am sorry to say that I cannot find words about the fact that I have her come back this way," an emotional Sato told a news conference at Tokyo's Narita airport.
"I think she has really worked hard. You have really worked hard. That's what I want to tell her now" added Sato, her colleague from the small but respected Japan Press.
Yamamoto, 45, is the fourth foreign journalist to have been killed in Syria since March 2011 and the first to have died in Aleppo. She had covered several armed conflicts, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq with Sato.
Yamamoto was a known face on Japanese television, who came to prominence after surviving a US tank shelling on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in 2003 in which two journalists, one from Reuters and one from a Spanish broadcaster, were killed.
Her body was flown from Istanbul aboard a Turkish Airlines plane, accompanied by Sato and two of Yamamoto's sisters.
A dozen of the plane's crew and airport workers offered a silent prayer after the coffin carrying her body was lowered on to the tarmac.
Her body was to be carried to her home in Tokyo and autopsied by police to determine whether she was deliberately targeted, media reports said.
"I want to come close to the truth about how she died," said Sato. "She was tender and had a strong sense of justice. She was straight and hot blooded."