Islamic State Kills Second Japanese Hostage

The fate of a captured Jordanian pilot remains unknown.

A pedestrian looks at a TV screen in Tokyo on January 26, 2015 showing news reports about Japanese journalist Kenji Goto being held by Islamic militants. The Islamic State group has said it executed one of two Japanese hostages it has been holding, in an apparent beheading that has been slammed by leaders around the world. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)

This story has been updated.

The Islamic State has released a video that shows the killing of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, whose release the Japanese government had been working to secure.

The video, which lasts just over a minute, was shared on Twitter Saturday. SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization that tracks jihadist propaganda, reported on the video as well.

It shows Goto kneeling and wearing the orange outfit worn by other prisoners of the Islamic State, which is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. The executor, believed to be the same man seen in previous beheading videos who is known as “Jihadi John,” stands over him, and speaking in British-accented English, delivers a message to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin,” he says.

Goto says nothing in the video before he is killed. The video does not show the beheading but Goto’s head is lying on top of his body as the video ends.

The U.S. intelligence community worked quickly to verify the video’s authenticity Saturday.

“The United States condemns the heinous murder of Japanese citizen and journalist Kenji Goto by the terrorist group ISIL,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

He applauded “Japan’s steadfast commitment to advancing peace and prosperity in the Middle East and globally, including its generous assistance for innocent people affected by the conflicts in the region.”

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel joined Obama in denouncing the killing and offering their condolences to Goto’s family.

“Like many of his journalist colleagues, Mr. Goto went to dangerous places to tell stories that needed to be told,” Hagel said in his statement.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government expressed outrage and horror in response to the video of the killing.

Japan had been working with the government of Jordan to secure the release of Goto and Moaz al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot the militant group captured after his plane went down over Syria in December.

The Islamic State first demanded a ransom of $200 million for Goto and another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa. Goto traveled to Syria last October to try to secure the release of Yukawa when he himself was captured.

But last week, the Islamic State released a video in which Goto is seen holding a photograph of Yukawa’s body. The group then demanded $200 million or threatened to kill Goto.

Earlier this year, Abe pledged $200 million in non-military assistance for countries fighting the Islamic State.

Negotiations became confused when the group dropped the demand for $200 million and instead called for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi militant who is in prison in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack that killed 60 people.

First the group said Goto would be killed if Rishawi wasn’t released. Then on Wednesday, the Islamic State released an audio message that said she had to be delivered to the Turkish border by sundown or the captured Jordanian pilot would be killed.

Jordan agreed to the swap, but said it wanted to see proof that Kasasbeh was still alive.

The Thursday deadline came and went without any announcement that the swap had taken place. Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama said Friday his government was continuing to push for Goto’s release, but that talks with the Islamic State had become “deadlocked.”

In the video released Saturday there is no mention of Kasasbeh.


Kate Brannen is deputy managing editor at Just Security and a contributor to Foreign Policy, where she previously worked as a senior reporter. Twitter: @K8brannen

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