A video was posted online Saturday night showing a still image of journalist Kenji Goto, one of two Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State group, holding a picture of what appeared to be the body of fellow captive Haruna Yukawa, a private security contractor who was believed abducted in Syria in August.
In the photo, Goto is holding a composite of two images. In one of them, Yukawa is kneeling on the ground. The other image appears to show his decapitated body. The photo, if authentic, suggests Yukawa was executed after a 72-hour ransom deadline imposed by the terrorist group expired at 2:50 p.m. Friday Japan time.
The images drew immediate condemnation from Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the No. 2 man in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.
“Such an act is outrageous and unforgivable. We strongly condemn this,” Suga told a hastily arranged news conference shortly after midnight in Tokyo.
“We demand that (the group) not harm Kenji Goto and immediately release him,” Suga said.
The video released Saturday night was accompanied by the voice of a man who identified himself as Goto.
“I am Kenji Goto Jogo. You have seen the photo of my cellmate Haruna slaughtered in the land of the Islamic caliphate,” the voice said in accented English in the video.
“You were warned,” the voice said. “You were given a deadline and so my captors acted upon their words.
“Abe, you killed Haruna. You did not take the threat of my captors seriously. And you did not act within that 72 hours.
“Their demand is easier. They are being fair. They no longer want money. So you do not need to worry about funding terrorists. They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister, Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi,” the voice said.
“It is simple. You give them Sajida and I will be released.”
Al-Rishawi, reportedly an Iraqi, was the wife of Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, who, together with two other suicide bombers killed 57 people during a wedding party at the Amman Radisson hotel in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005. Al-Rishawi also took part in the attack, but survived because the belt she was wearing containing explosives failed to detonate.
Al-Rishawi is also reportedly the sister of a former close aide of deceased al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Qaida in Iraq was a forerunner to the terrorist group currently known as the Islamic State.
The video ends with message to Goto’s wife: “Rinko, these could be my last hours in this world and I may be a dead man speaking. Don’t let these be my last words you ever hear. Don’t let Abe also kill me.”
A high-ranking government official said Tokyo has not confirmed the authenticity of the video yet.
Afterward, Prime Minister Abe vowed that Japan “will not give in to terrorism” and will continue to make the utmost efforts to save Goto’s life.
“(We) can keenly understand how the family (of Yukawa) is feeling. We are speechless,” Abe told his ministers during an emergency Cabinet meeting convened shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday.
“We firmly denounce” the apparent killing of Yukawa, Abe said.
“Our country will not give in to terrorism, as we have not (in the past). We will cooperate with countries across the world and actively contribute to international society’s efforts to cope with terrorism,” he said.
A few minutes later, Abe faced reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office, saying that the government is now using every diplomatic channel available to seek cooperation from various parties in order to secure Goto’s release.
The government will also make the utmost efforts to protect Japanese people living at home and abroad, Abe said.