Slain hostage’s 4-year-old tweet embraced on social media


A Virginia woman pleaded guilty Monday to lying to federal investigators about supporting the Islamic State militant group. Heather Elizabeth Coffman, 29, faces up to eight years in prison when she is sentenced May 11. An affidavit filed by an FBI agent said Coffman promoted the extremist organization on several Facebook accounts she maintained under various names. Those posts prompted a sting by the agent, who posed as an Islamic State sympathizer. The agent wrote that Coffman talked about making arrangements for a man she identified as her husband to train and fight with the Islamic State in Syria, and offered to use her contacts with the group to make similar arrangements for the FBI agent and a fictitious friend, the affidavit said. After several meetings between the agent and Coffman, two other FBI agents interviewed the woman, who denied supporting any terrorist groups, the affidavit said.

— Associated Press

Kenji Goto’s words, now more than four years old, have taken on a new poignancy.

“Closing my eyes and holding still. It’s the end if I get mad or scream. It’s close to a prayer. Hate is not for humans. Judgment lies with God. That’s what I learned from my Arabic brothers and sisters.”

That tweet from Sept. 7, 2010, has been embraced by social media users as a fitting memorial to the 47-year-old freelance journalist. It had 20,000 retweets by Monday, and was being repeated by others by the minute.

Early Sunday, news emerged that Goto had been killed by extremists of the Islamic State group after efforts to secure his release from months of captivity failed. His reported death followed the slaying of another Japanese hostage, adventurer Haruna Yukawa.

The Twitter account was verified as Goto’s by his friend Toshi Maeda, who heads Tokyo-based venture Pacific Bridge. The company created the mobile-video application Goto used for some of his reports from Syria.

Goto’s Twitter account contains other musings, including comments about French wine and complaints about his tired eyes, as well as his reporting.

But it was the message of tolerance that seemed to resonate with the thousands of Japanese Twitter users, who expressed admiration for Goto’s reporting about the suffering of children in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Yuki Watabe, a 15-year-old high school student in Sapporo in northern Japan, said the tweet gave him heartache.

“He was such a wonderful person,” Watabe said. “He had a strong sense of doing the right thing.”

An English translation of that tweet, originally in Japanese, was also circulating on Twitter.

Goto’s last tweet was in October, about the time he left for Syria in his quest to rescue Yukawa, who disappeared last summer.

Maeda recalled how Goto believed in citizen journalism.

“He was like a brother to me,” he said. “He was an inspiration. He was a friend and a colleague.”