Islamic State Video Purportedly Shows Beheading of Japanese Hostage Kenji Goto
Islamic State militants have executed Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, according to a video released by the group Saturday.
The footage, which is similar to previous videos the Islamic State has released in the past, shows the masked militant known as "Jihadi John" beheading Goto. The video is directed to the Japanese government, and the executioner, speaking in British-accented English says, "Let the nightmare for Japan begin."
Japan and other nations condemned with outrage and horror on Sunday the beheading purportedly by the Islamic State group of Kenji Goto, a journalist who sought through his coverage of Syria to convey the plight of refugees, children and other victims of war.
The failure to save Goto raised fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot also held hostage by the extremists. Unlike earlier messages, an online video purporting to show an Islamic State group militant beheading Goto, circulated via social media late Saturday by militant sympathizers, did not mention the pilot.
Goto's slaying shocked this country, which up to now had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants.
"I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after convening an emergency Cabinet meeting.
"When I think of the grief of his family, I am left speechless," he said. "The government has been doing its utmost in responding to win his release, and we are filled with deep regret."
In light of threats from the Islamic State group, the government ordered heightened security at airports and at Japanese facilities overseas, such as embassies and schools, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said.
He said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the status of the Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh. He was captured in December when his F-16 crashed near the de facto capital of the Islamic State group, which controls about a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in a self-declared caliphate.
Jordan's government spokesman, Mohammed al-Momani, also declined comment. Earlier this week, Jordan offered to free an al-Qaida prisoner for the pilot, but demanded and said it never got proof he was still alive.
Goto, 47, was a freelance journalist and father who braved hardship and peril to convey the suffering caused by conflict and poverty.
"Kenji has died, and my heart is broken. Facing such a tragic death, I'm just speechless," Goto's mother Junko Ishido told reporters.
"I was hoping Kenji might be able to come home," said Goto's brother, Junichi Goto, in a separate interview. "I was hoping he would return and thank everyone for his rescue, but that's impossible, and I'm bitterly disappointed."
Japanese expressed shock and horror over Goto's killing.
Yukawa's father, Shoichi, said Goto was trying to rescue his son "only to suffer the worst possible outcome."
"I just have no words. It's utterly heartbreaking," he said. "People killing other people — it's so deplorable. How can this be happening?"
Abe vowed not to give in to terrorism and said Japan will continue to provide humanitarian aid to countries fighting the Islamic State extremists.
The defense minister, Gen Nakatani, said that the police agency had deemed the video of Goto's killing "highly likely to be authentic."
According to his friends and family, Goto traveled to Syria in late October to try to save another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, who was captured by the Islamic State group in August and shown as purportedly killed in an earlier video.
The White House released a statement in which President Barack Obama also condemned "the heinous murder" and praised Goto's reporting, saying he "courageously sought to convey the plight of the Syrian people to the outside world."
The White House said that while it isn't confirming the authenticity of the video itself, it has confirmed that Goto has been slain.
Saturday's video, highlighted by militant sympathizers on social media sites, bore the symbol of the Islamic State group's al-Furqan media arm.
Though it could not be immediately independently verified by The Associated Press, it conformed to other beheading videos released by the extremists, who now control about a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in a self-declared caliphate.
In Jordan late Saturday night, relatives and supporters of the pilot held a candlelit vigil inside a family home in Karak, al-Kaseasbeh's hometown in southern Jordan.
We "decided to hold this protest to remind the Jordanian government of the issue of the imprisoned pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh," said the pilot's brother Jawdat al-Kaseasbeh, holding picture of Muath with a caption: "We are all Muath."
Al-Kaseasbeh's uncle, Yassin Rawashda, said the family just wants to be kept informed.
"We want to know how the negotiations are going ... in a positive direction or not. And we want the family to be (involved) in the course of negotiations," he said.
In a purported online message earlier this week, the militants threatened to kill the pilot if the al-Qaida prisoner, 44-year-old Sajijda al-Rishawi, wasn't released by sunset on Thursday. That deadline passed, leaving the families of the pilot and the journalist waiting in agony.
Jordan and Japan had reportedly conducted indirect negotiations with the militants through Iraqi tribal leaders, but late on Friday Japan's deputy foreign minister reported a deadlock in those efforts.
The hostage drama began last week when the militants threatened to kill Goto and Yukawa in 72 hours unless Japan paid $200 million.
Later, the militants' demand shifted to seeking the release of al-Rishawi, who is facing death by hanging in Jordan for her role in triple hotel bombings in Amman in 2005. Sixty people were killed in those attacks, the worst terror attack in Jordan's history.
Al-Rishawi has close family ties to the Iraq branch of al-Qaida, a precursor of the Islamic State group.
A video purporting to show the beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto by an Islamic State militant is raising questions about the role of pacifist Japan in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism.
AND The video was released early Sunday Tokyo time, following days of efforts to secure the hostage’s release in exchange for an Islamist prisoner held in a Jordanian prison. In a previous video, Islamic State had threatened to kill Mr. Goto unless the prisoner was released by sundown Thursday. That deadline passed without any signs of progress.Jordan had expressed willingness to release the prisoner in exchange for a Jordanian military pilot, First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh, but it said it needed to see proof the pilot was still alive. No such confirmation came, and the latest video didn’t mention the pilot.
In the video, a militant said the execution of Mr. Goto, a freelance journalist known for traveling to conflict zones, was in retaliation for Japan’s participation in the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State, according to SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks extremists. A week earlier, a video purported to show another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, had been killed.In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency meeting of cabinet members early Sunday.
“I feel strong anger at this act of terrorism, which is outrageous and the height of barbarism,” Mr. Abe said. “We will not forgive terrorists, and we will work alongside the international community to make them pay for their sins.”
Japanese officials said they believed the video was authentic but were still analyzing it. The U.S. said it was also analyzing the video.
In a statement, President Barack Obama condemned the “heinous murder” of Mr. Goto and thanked Japan for its assistance to the Middle East. “Standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners, the United States will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Mr. Obama said, using an acronym for the militant group.
Under Mr. Abe, Japan has sought to contribute more to U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism. The first video in which the militants threatened to kill the two Japanese hostages appeared Jan. 20, amid Mr. Abe’s visit to Israel during a tour of the Middle East. The video took direct aim at a $200 million package of humanitarian aid he had offered earlier in the trip to help countries battling Islamic State.
On Sunday, Mr. Abe said Japan would further expand aid to the Middle East in areas such as food and medical care.
Junko Ishido the mother of journalist Kenji Goto, spoke to reporters in Tokyo Sunday after the video of her son’s apparent killing was released. ENLARGE
Junko Ishido the mother of journalist Kenji Goto, spoke to reporters in Tokyo Sunday after the video of her son’s apparent killing was released. PHOTO: REUTERS
The militants initially requested a $200 million ransom payment from Japan but later changed course and demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, who received a death sentence in Jordan for her part in 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. Jordan’s government didn’t immediately respond to the news of Mr. Goto’s apparent killing.
The hostage crisis jolted Japan, a close U.S. ally but not a direct participant in the Washington-led military campaign to contain Islamic State.
While some said the latest case underscores the need to better protect Japanese citizens abroad, others said they feared Tokyo’s expanded engagement would increase the risk for its citizens.
“It would only bring us the cycle of terrorism and hatred,” Seiji Mataichi, secretary-general of the opposition Social Democratic Party, said during a televised debate of political leaders Sunday morning.
Some are uneasy with the idea of Mr. Abe working hand-in-glove with the U.S. “He may be talking about humanitarian assistance and nonmilitary aid now, but what Prime Minister Abe is doing is using the latest case to speed up and expand his drive to make Japan a nation that wages war overseas,” said Yoshiki Yamashita, secretariat chief of the Japanese Communist Party.
The Communists, while still a relatively small bloc in parliament, more than doubled their seats in December elections with help from voters who oppose Mr. Abe’s hawkish security policy.
For decades, Japan has grappled with the balance between its pacifist constitution, drafted by Washington after World War II, and its desire to help the U.S. in global hot spots.
Last year, the Abe administration revised its interpretation of constitutional limits on the role of the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces. Parliamentary deliberations over legislation to ease the limits are expected to begin this month.
Mr. Goto is a seasoned journalist who has run his own company, Independent Press, since 1996. His work has been featured on major Japanese television networks, and he wrote several books, including ones on child soldiers and survivors of the Rwandan civil war.
‘We will not forgive terrorists, and we will work alongside the international community to make them pay for their sins. Japan will not give in to terrorism. ’
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
In a statement released Thursday, Mr. Goto’s wife, Rinko, said her husband went missing on Oct. 25. She said she was made aware of his situation on Dec. 2, when she received an email from the group that claimed to hold her husband. She said she and her husband have two young daughters, one of whom was born three weeks before he left for Syria.
The one-minute video depicting Mr. Goto’s apparent killing is titled “A Message to the Government of Japan.” It appears to be shot outdoors near a dry riverbed and includes a statement by a militant. As he delivers the message, the militant stands by a kneeling captive who appears to be Mr. Goto, before applying a knife against his neck. The video then cuts to a still image of a dead body and a severed head.
As in previous videos showing the execution of hostages by Islamic State, the militant is dressed in black with only his eyes showing. He speaks in a British accent. The captive wears an orange tunic, with his hands tied behind his
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