TOKYO — The body of Mika Yamamoto, the veteran Japanese journalist killed while covering the civil war in Syria, returned to Japan on Saturday.

Her coffin was unloaded from a Turkish Airlines aircraft as the pilot and crew saluted her, and airport officials observed a moment of silence.

Yamamoto's two sisters, as well as colleague Kazutaka Sato, were aboard the same flight from Istanbul.

Yamamoto and Sato, both with independent TV news provider The Japan Press, were traveling with the Free Syrian Army in the northwestern city of Aleppo on Monday when Yamamoto was fatally wounded in crossfire between rebels and government forces.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said that at least 16 journalists have been killed since November while covering Syria, making it the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. Activists say Syria's conflict has killed more than 20,000 people since March 2011.

Yamamoto's two sisters remained silent as they walked past a crowd of reporters at Tokyo's Narita International Airport.

At a news conference at the airport, Sato said it was a long journey back home.

"She was shot in Syria, crossed the borders and now brought back to Japan - I think she gave it her all to get here," he said.

Sato said the 45-year-old's body will be handed over to Japanese police for an autopsy for further investigation, before a wake and a funeral are held.