Photo/IllutrationAfghans wait for the arrival of the body of Tetsu Nakamura on an observation deck at Fukuoka Airport on Dec. 9, holding banners, flowers and pictures. (Motoki Nagasawa)

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FUKUOKA--The body of doctor Tetsu Nakamura, who was killed in Afghanistan while doing humanitarian work, returned to his hometown here on Dec. 9 with many mourners gathered to pay their respects.

About 30 Afghans living in the Kyushu region were waiting on an observation deck at Fukuoka Airport, holding banners, flowers and pictures of the deceased.

One banner read, “You are our hero,” while another said, “We are sorry we could not protect you.”

A flight from Tokyo's Haneda Airport carrying Nakamura’s body arrived at the airport around 10 a.m.

When his coffin, topped with white flowers, was lowered from the plane, airport staff members offered prayers while bowing deeply.

Nakamura, 73, was riding in a two-vehicle convoy that was ambushed on a road in Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan on Dec. 4. He was killed along with five others, including the driver.

Nakamura’s wife and daughter arrived in Afghanistan on Dec. 6 to bring his body back to Japan.

After meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the two arrived at Narita International Airport together with Nakamura’s body on Dec. 8.

Zishan Khan, 20, who studies economics at a university in Fukuoka Prefecture, said that he met Nakamura two years ago when he was returning to his hometown in Jalalabad.

Khan spoke to the doctor in Japanese. Nakamura was surprised and told him, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you can use what you learned in Japan in the future in Afghanistan?”

Khan said on Dec. 9, “The only thing I can do for Nakamura is to come here. I really appreciate his contribution to the Afghan people. I want to do as much as I can do now for him.”

Nakamura was the local head of Peshawar-kai, a nongovernmental organization he established in Fukuoka. In Afghanistan, where Nakamura was highly acclaimed among Afghan citizens, he provided medical care to patients and worked on irrigation projects. The Afghan government awarded Nakamura a medal and honorary Afghan citizenship.

"Dr. Nakamura had sought for everyone to live together beyond being enemies and allies," said Masaru Murakami, president of Peshawar-kai, at a news conference at Fukuoka Airport. "We will follow his noble will and continue to work on our activities to make all his wishes realized.”