ISTANBUL--Family members of war correspondent Mika Yamamoto, who was killed while covering the civil war in Syria, viewed her bullet-torn body at a mosque in neighboring Turkey on Aug. 23.
“You are beautiful as always, Mika,” they said, gently stroking Yamamoto's cheek, according to her longtime colleague and partner, Kazutaka Sato.
The 45-year-old reporter for The Japan Press was killed Aug. 20 in Aleppo in northern Syria after she was struck in the back and neck during a gunfire exchange between government and rebel forces.
Sato accompanied Yamamoto’s older and younger sisters and nephew and they spent about 15 minutes with Yamamoto’s body at a mosque close to the Istanbul airport.
According to Sato--Yamamoto's common-law husband who was with her in Syria to cover the civil war--her sisters caressed her hair and face and talked to their fallen sibling.
He quoted one of them as saying: “Your hair and lips are still so soft. I hope you died without pain. I would be glad if that was the case.”
"It's regrettable," Sato quoted the younger sister as saying.
Yamamoto’s body is expected to leave Istanbul around midnight on Aug. 24. It is expected to arrive at Narita Airport in the morning on Aug. 25.
A video camera used by Yamamoto until the moment she was gunned down contained footage of Syrian women and children living in a battle zone--a theme Yamamoto had been pursuing in her work.
Wearing a protective vest, Yamamoto was reporting from a bomb-blasted urban district on Aug. 20.
The footage also showed gun-toting soldiers clad in bulletproof vests walking down a street as women and children observe the scene from an overhead veranda.
“Under such severe air strikes, people are going about their everyday lives,” Yamamoto says in her narrative.
The footage was provided by Sato to the Japanese media, including Nippon Television.
In another scene, Yamamoto talks to a family with an infant.
"Your baby is so cute," Yamamoto says.
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