Saturday 24 February 2018

Kenji Goto beheading video: Wife says she is 'extremely proud' as a nation mourns hero killed by Isis

Zachary Davies Boren

Japan has vowed to make Isis pay for its execution of hostages Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying they "will never forgive the terrorists".

The release of a video on Saturday purporting to show the beheading of Goto has sent shockwaves across the country, prompting the government to heighten security measures at airports and overseas facilities following further Isis threats.

Japan's cabinet is meeting to discuss the apparent murder of Kenji Goto by IS
Japan's cabinet is meeting to discuss the apparent murder of Kenji Goto by IS

"I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism," a visibly upset Abe told reporters after convening an emergency Cabinet meeting.

"When I think of the grief of his family, I am left speechless," he said. "The government has been doing its utmost in responding to win his release, and we are filled with deep regret."

Japan, which has not been directly involved in the fight against Isis, has reaffirmed its backing of the US-led coalition: "We will co-operate with the international community to make [Isis] atone for their crimes."

Goto's execution has been strongly condemned by UK, US and Jordanian governments.

US President Barack Obama called it a "heinous murder" and Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a "further reminder that [Isis] is the embodiment of evil, with no regard for human life".

The failure to save Goto has also raised fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot held hostage by the extremists; unlike earlier messages, the video did not mention the pilot.

It is unclear if negotiations for the release of Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who was captured in December when his F-16 crashed in Isis territory, are ongoing.

Earlier this week, Jordan offered to free al-Qaida prisoner Sajijda al-Rishawi for the pilot, but demanded and said it never got proof he was still alive.

In Jordan late Saturday night, relatives and supporters of the pilot held a candlelit vigil inside a family home in Karak, al-Kaseasbeh's hometown in southern Jordan.

Al-Kaseasbeh's family have asked their government Sunday to be more open about negotiations with Isis, pleading to be told if efforts are headed "in a positive direction or not".

In Japan there has been an outpouring of grief for Goto, 47, a freelance journalist and father who braved hardship and peril to convey the suffering caused by conflict and poverty.

His wife Rinko told Sky News: "He was not just my loving husband and father to our two beautiful children, but a son, brother and friend to many around the world.

Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto made another appeal for his life to be spared yesterday
Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto made another appeal for his life to be spared yesterday

"While feeling a great personal loss, I remain extremely proud of my husband."

His mother Junko Ishido said: "Kenji has died, and my heart is broken."

And his brother Junichi Goto said: "I was hoping Kenji might be able to come home.

"I was hoping he would return and thank everyone for his rescue, but that's impossible, and I'm bitterly disappointed."

Shoichi Yukawa, the father of Haruna, who was executed last week, praised Goto for trying to rescue his son: "I just have no words. It's utterly heartbreaking," he said. "People killing other people - it's so deplorable. How can this be happening?"

Japan's defense minister, Gen Nakatani, said that the police agency had deemed the video of Goto's killing "highly likely to be authentic."

The White House said that while it isn't confirming the authenticity of the video itself, it has confirmed that Goto has been slain.

Saturday's video, highlighted by militant sympathizers on social media sites, bore the symbol of the Islamic State group's al-Furqan media arm.

It conformed to other beheading videos released by the extremists, who now control about a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in a self-declared caliphate.

Jordan and Japan had reportedly conducted indirect negotiations with the militants through Iraqi tribal leaders, but late on Friday Japan's deputy foreign minister reported a deadlock in those efforts.

The hostage drama began last week when the militants threatened to kill Goto and Yukawa in 72 hours unless Japan paid $200 million.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Independent News Service

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