Abe says likelihood of video being real is ‘high’


Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that the “credibility” of the online video apparently posted by the Islamic State group Saturday is “high,” suggesting Tokyo believes Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa was actually killed by the extremists as claimed in the clip, which includes a shocking still image of what appeared to be his corpse.

“To our regret, we have no choice but say to the credibility (of the video) is high,” Abe said during a live interview with NHK. The prime minister had appeared on the program as earlier scheduled.

“Such an act of terrorism is outrageous and impermissible,” Abe said. “I feel strong indignation. I resolutely condemn this.”

The Islamic State group had threatened to kill journalist Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, a self-styled private security contractor, in a separate video posted on the Internet on Tuesday, demanding Japan pay $200 million within 72 hours.

The video released Saturday showed a still image of Goto holding a photo of what appeared to be Yukawa’s beheaded body.

Some experts and media outlets have questioned the authenticity of the video clip, which was posted on the Internet around 11 p.m. Saturday.

The clip did not bear the logo of al-Furqan, a media arm of the Islamic State group that has issued past videos involving hostages and beheadings.

Junko Ishido, Goto’s mother, told reporters in Tokyo that she does not believe the voice of the man on the video is that of her son.

The government, however, is taking the claims made in the video very seriously.

“We will make further efforts to seek the release (of Goto). And we will not give into terrorism,” Abe told NHK.

“We won’t change this stance of ours,” he added.

The man’s voice on the video identified himself as Goto and, speaking in English, claimed that the Islamic State group had executed Yukawa because Abe had failed to pay the ransom by the deadline.

In the video, the voice attributed to Goto also said the Islamic State group was abandoning its ransom demand and instead urged the release of Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi in exchange of Goto.

Al-Rishawi, reportedly an Iraqi, was the wife of Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, who, together with three other suicide bombers killed 57 people in three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005.

Al-Rishawi is reportedly imprisoned in Jordan. Questioned if Tokyo would ask Amman to release her in exchange of Goto, Abe declined to comment.

“We’d like to refrain from discussing how we will deal with (it) because the situation is changing right now,” Abe said.

“At any rate, we will put our top priority on (saving Goto’s life) and closely cooperate with Jordan to cope with the situation,” he added.

“We should stop this tide of extremism,” Abe said.

The prime minister also said the stability of the Middle East is “critically important” for Japan, which is heavily dependent on oil exports from the region.

Abe vowed that Japan would continue giving food, medical and other humanitarian aid to evacuees who have fled areas controlled by the Islamic State group.

“This is aid that evacuees keenly need,” the prime minister said. “We shouldn’t changed our policy” of providing such assistance.

Later the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga faced reporters at an 11 a.m. news conference. Asked if Tokyo had had any direct communications with the Islamic State group other than the release of videos, Suga said: “No, we haven’t.”

Meanwhile, a high-ranking Japanese official said that the government had analyzed in detail the image of what appeared to be Yukawa’s corpse, including its facial features.

“We have found nothing to deny” the group’s claim that it has executed Yukawa, the official said.

  • George Kafantaris

    What country would oppose the United Nations in putting together international ground forces to ferret out the ISIS barbarians?
    So why is the UN not doing so?
    Inaction has consequences, and proof of this is the emergence of ISIS itself from our inaction in Syria.
    Should the resourceful nation of Japan turn a new leaf and abandon its pacifist policies, the UN will have more to worry about than snuffing out disorganized bands of savages.

  • A.J. Sutter

    Another way to read this situation is that Abe is hoping to use the events to soften the public to accept collective self-defense, and possibly even deployment of Japanese forces on various other Middle Eastern missions.

    Even in the original video Yukawa looks fatter than he ought to if he he had been captured in August. The edges around the images of the captives also make the video look digitally manipulated. It’s possible he was killed long ago, but ISIS/Daesh is making clever use of images to manipulate the outside world. In this case, the information that he was beheaded might be correct, but the event may have been more remote in time than Daesh is trying to make it appear. Daesh is obviously handling this in a clever manner, such as by driving a wedge between Japan and its ally Jordan. It seems unlikely that the Japanese government is naive about the possibility that Daesh understands how to manipulate appearances, especially since their diplomats have been in touch with Jordan and Turkey and have no doubt been briefed by them.

    Nonetheless, Japan’s government is no slouch in the manipulation department, either. (No successful government is.) So it goes through various motions, such as letting it be released that Abe was presented with the option of a military strike to save the hostages, but rejected it because it was against the constitution. This seems intended to make Abe look like one of those unbendable old heroes of the Roman Republic.

    The deaths of these men, especially Yukawa, are also something of a blessing to Abe’s government, because they avoid a dilemma of what to do with them if they are brought back home.

    Despite Goto’s halo of being a journalist, his reckless deliberate border crossing seems to have been based on a hero-complex, an attempt to “save” the probably already-dead Yukawa. Many Japanese commenters on blogs and news stories blame him for voluntarily entering dangerous territory, and ignoring advice from many local officials. But the press can spin the story on one of their own, as they already do with his purported mother who didn’t even know she was a grandmother. (BTW are the rest of us supposed to be reassured by her message that Goto-san “is not an enemy of ISIS”?) So it might be possible to turn around any public annoyance with Goto.

    On the other hand, given that Yukawa is also reputed to have been a weapons dealer, it’s hard to believe he would have been welcomed by the Japanese public. Would he have been prosecuted on his return? So he’s of more use to Abe dead than alive, as a “martyr” to Japan’s constitutional inability to protect its own citizens.

    Of course, the fact that trying a military operation might be suicidal too, or lead to more and higher-value hostages — as evidenced by the US avoidance of rescue missions for American hostages – is never mentioned. Only Abe’s noble stand on principle.

  • sbignewski

    Years ago I saw an interview with someone who lived in of Germany through the 1930’s and 40’s. He said he feared his country had lost the war, even in the triumph of Spring, 1941. He gave as the reason for this idea, his realization that Germany had pretty much declared war on the entire world. Nobody declares war on the entire world and wins for long.

    These maniacs seem to have declared war on the entire world.

    They seem intent upon proving it.

  • timefox

    It’s Islamic nation that Japanese was kidnaped. Kidnapping is a crime. Islamic nation is vice as of this.

    The person doing Japanese Government criticism has forgot that Islamic nation kidnaps and has killed Japanese.

    When you’re a supporter of Islamic nation of course, a bad one will be Japanese Government.

  • Tedbaxter

    America is weakening; it is time to drop Article 9.

  • Skinhead

    Isn’t worldpressphoto contest a bit responsible for those journalist deats? They need a reason to take such risks, right?