Islamic militants behead Japanese hostage, offer swap for remaining one

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Kenji Goto

USA Today: 

The Islamic State reportedly released a new video Saturday claiming one of the two Japanese captives has been beheaded and issuing new demands for the other hostage’s release.

In the video, Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto holds a photo that purportedly shows the dead body of the second hostage, Haruna Yukawa. SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization that monitors extremist websites, said the video had been distributed across several Islamic State-linked Twitter accounts.

The Japanese government said it is seeking to verify the video, BBC reported. A government spokesman called the apparent execution of Yukawa “outrageous” and “unacceptable,” Reuters reported.

The video could not be independently verified. SITE has reported on several Islamic State videos in the past that proved to be authentic. Kyodo News agency reported the same video had been e-mailed to the wife of one of the hostages.

The release of the video sparked claims and counterclaims on terrorist-related websites, the Associated Press reported. It was notably different from previous videos in that it depicted a static shot of Goto holding a photo while the audio played. It did not show him speaking or moving.

One militant on the Islamic State-affiliated website warned that Saturday’s new message was fake, while another said that the message was intended only to go to the Japanese journalist’s family.

A third militant on the website noted the video was not issued by al-Furqan, which is one of the media arms of the Islamic State group that has issued past videos involving hostages and beheadings. Saturday’s message did not bear al-Furqan’s logo.

The militants on the website post comments using pseudonyms, so their identities could not be independently confirmed by the AP. However, their confusion over the video matched that of Japanese officials and outside observers.

I am Kenji Goto Jogo,” the journalist is heard to say in the video, which was directed toward his family. “You have seen the photo of my cellmate Haruna slaughtered in the land of the Islamic Caliphate. You were warned. You were given a deadline and so my captives acted upon their words.”

The Islamic State had demanded a $200 million ransom for the release of the two men. The 72-hour deadline passed on Friday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had refused to pay a ransom.

In the video, Goto said Islamic State had changed its ransom demand and no longer wanted money.

“Their demand is easier. They are being fair. They no longer want money. So you don’t need to worry about funding terrorists. They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi,” he said.

Sajida al-Rishawi is a female suicide bomber dispatched by al-Qaeda in Iraq to attack a hotel in Jordan in 2005, SITE reported. She survived when her explosive belt failed to detonate. Al-Rishawi was arrested by Jordanian authorities at the time of the attack on the Radisson SAS hotel in Amman that killed 57 people, many of whom were at a wedding reception.

She was later shown on Jordanian TV confessing to participating in the attack, BBC reported. Jordanian police said she was the wife of one of three Iraqi male suicide bombers involved in the assault.

My husband wore one (bomb) belt and I another — he told me how to use it,” she said, explaining that he took one corner of the hotel and she took another.

There was a wedding in the hotel. There were women and children,” she said. “My husband executed the attack. I tried to detonate and it failed. I left. People started running and I started running with them.”

Goto was abducted after entering Syria to search for Yukawa, the 42-year-old founder of a private security firm who was taken captive in August, according to reports on Japanese television.

In a video released Tuesday, both men were shown wearing orange clothing and kneeling in the desert on either side of a masked militant holding a knife.

Japanese media, citing unnamed officials, reported this week that Goto’s wife had received an e-mail in December demanding a ransom of about $17 million. But government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said there has been no direct contact with the militants.

The Islamic State has carried out its previous threats, posting videos showing the beheading of American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British hostages David Haines and Alan Herring. Both the U.S. and Britain reject paying ransoms to free hostages.

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