We perish because we know not… #TLENews
The Japanese government expressed outrage at an image released Saturday that purported to show the decapitated body of one of two Japanese hostages captured by Islamic State militants, but the chief government spokesman did not confirm the authenticity of the video.
The kidnappers had threatened to kill the men if a Friday deadline had passed for a $200 million ransom from Japan.
SITE Intelligence, a well-known organization that tracks jihadist propaganda, said that it believed the video containing the image was authentic. But Al Furqan, an ISIS-linked website that has in the past posted videos of the group’s beheadings, had not released any video or message confirming the killing by midday Saturday.
A statement by SITE said the video was posted on Islamic State-linked Twitter accounts.
A senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there was no reason not to believe the reports of the man’s death. A National Security Council statement issued later said the intelligence community was working to confirm the video’s authenticity and called for the immediate release of all the remaining hostages held by the Islamic State.
An audio clip that accompanied the video said the hostage thought to have been killed was Haruna Yukawa, 42, who has been described as an adventurer. The other hostage, Kenji Goto, 47, a journalist, appeared to be alive in the video.
“This action is an unforgivable act of violence that leaves us at a loss for words, and we condemn it,” the Japanese government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at a hastily arranged midnight news conference. “We strongly urge that the remaining hostage, Mr. Goto, not be harmed and be immediately released.”
The two men’s fate has become a fixation in Japan and a major challenge for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A grim-faced Mr. Abe returned to the prime minister’s office in the middle of the night to oversee this latest twist to the hostage crisis, which began Tuesday when a video appeared online showing the two hostages kneeling as a knife-wielding militant threatened to kill them.
“I feel strong outrage,” Mr. Abe told reporters after the meeting. “The Japanese government will not give in to terrorism and will continue to contribute to the peace and stability of the international community and the world.”
If the reports of Mr. Yukawa’s death prove to be true, he would be the first Japanese person to be killed by the Islamic State, which has established a self-proclaimed caliphate that is financed partly by extortion and the kidnapping of foreigners. The group has beheaded two Americans and two Britons in recent months and showcased the killings via Internet video postings.
In the three-minute audio recording released Saturday, the voice of a man who claimed to be Mr. Goto said Mr. Yukawa had been “slaughtered” and blamed Mr. Abe’s failure to pay the ransom that had been demanded. The audio was addressed to Mr. Goto’s wife, telling her that the Islamic State has changed its demands, offering to return Mr. Goto in exchange for the release of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, a woman imprisoned in Jordan for her part in a devastating suicide bomb attack there that killed 57 people in 2005.
“They no longer want money,” the voice says in accented English. “You bring them their sister from the Jordanian regime, and I will be released immediately. Me for her. Don’t let these be my last words you ever hear. Don’t let Abe also kill me.”
News of the reported execution came after Mr. Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, issued a tearful plea at a Tokyo news conference Friday to the kidnappers, beseeching them to spare his life and asserting that he was not an enemy of Islam.
As the deadline on Friday afternoon Tokyo time passed, with no immediate word on the fate of the hostages, the Japanese government said it was still trying to contact the kidnappers and confirm whether the men were alive.
Japan paid to free kidnapped citizens in at least one previous case, in 1999, spending $3 million to secure the release of four mining experts held in Kyrgyzstan. Japanese officials never specified whether they were willing to pay any ransom to the Islamic State.
New York Times