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Kin of Japanese man killed in Afghanistan mourn similar attack on Dr. Nakamura

Testu Nakamura, center, and Kazuya Ito, second from left, are seen together with other aid workers on an irrigation project, in Afghanistan in January 2004. Image provided by Kazuya Ito's parents.
Kazuya Ito (Photo courtesy of Peshawar-kai)
Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura, second from left, is seen helping to carry the coffin containing fellow activist Kazuya Ito onto an ambulance from an Afghan military helicopter, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 28, 2008. (Mainichi/Shinichi Kurita)

SHIZUOKA -- The parents of a man who was fatally gunned down in Afghanistan in 2008 after working in the country alongside Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who died in a similar attack this week, have expressed sorrow over the doctor's sudden passing.

Nakamura, 73, a representative of the NGO Peshawar-kai, died on Dec. 4 in Afghanistan after a car he was travelling in was attacked by an armed group. In 2008, Kazuya Ito, a 31-year-old member of the Peshawar-kai, was similarly killed by armed assailants.

In an interview at their home in the central Japan city of Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Dec. 5, Ito's parents said in strained voices, "Dr. Nakamura was a mentor to our son during his time in Afghanistan. It feels like our son has been killed a second time."

Ito's father Masayuki, 72, and mother Junko, 67, heard about the attack on the car carrying Nakamura from internet news on the afternoon of Dec. 4. They were initially relieved by reports that said his life was not in danger, but soon the news broke on TV that he had died.

Kazuya Ito's parents Junko, left, and Masayuki, right, are seen speaking about the shooting death of Tetsu Nakamura at their home in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Dec. 5, 2019. (Mainichi/Yukina Furukawa)

"It reminded us of our son's case. We were shocked beyond words," Masayuki said. He passed a sleepless night caught up in feelings of sadness and anger.

It was December 2003 when their son Kazuya showed them a book by Nakamura and told them he wanted to go to where he was. Kazuya had already arranged his flight to Afghanistan. The couple thought if their son had such a strong will to go there, Nakamura must be a great person.

Kazuya worked with Nakamura in eastern Afghanistan, where they labored to establish an irrigation facility and support the farming industry in a mountain village. In August 2008, Kazuya was dragged out of the car he was travelling in by an armed group, and his corpse was found riddled with horrific bullet wounds the next day. Nakamura rushed to accept the coffin carrying Kazuya's body. At a press conference in Kabul, he apologized repeatedly, saying, "To Ito's parents, I am so sorry."

Kazuya's parents continued their association with the Peshawar-kai after the incident. In the autumn of 2017, the family had dinner with Nakamura in the city of Shizuoka, in the central Japan prefecture of the same name. Junko spoke to him about her long-held wish to see the place where her son had worked. They said he promised them he would certainly take them there while he was working in Afghanistan, and asked them to wait a little longer. That was the last time they spoke with him.

Masayuki says that what stays with him is Nakamura's conviction. "He went to places no one went to, did things people didn't do," he said, adding, "I think he always recognized that what he did came with dangers, and some people may think that he shouldn't have gone to that kind of place. But he shouldn't be criticized for the deeds he continued doing with strong willpower." Junko said, "Why do people who live to help Afghanistan have to leave this world like this?"

As a way to continue the work of their son, in 2008 Kazuya's parents started the Nanohana foundation, which has led to the construction of a dormitory for students and other initiatives.

Masayuki said, "Our wish is for the people of those areas to take up and continue the work of Kazuya and Dr. Nakamura."

(Japanese original by Yukina Furukawa, Shizuoka Bureau)

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