Journalist Kenji Goto was beheaded by the Islamic State, shocks Japanese nation
On Feb. 1, the Islamic State released a video purporting to show the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto, a war correspondent who wanted to document the suffering of refugees and other victims of war in Syria.
The Islamic State is also threatening to murder a Jordanian pilot who is being held hostage. The video does not specifically mention the pilot, but the fears remain that he may be the next victim, if he is not already dead.
Goto’s murder has shocked Japan.
“I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“When I think of the grief of his family, I am left speechless. The government has been doing its utmost in responding to win his release, and we are filled with deep regret.”
After the murder, the Japanese government has ordered a tighter security presence at its airports and overseas embassies.
Yoshihide Suga, a government spokesman, would not comment on the life of the Jordanian pilot, Muath al- Kaseasbeh, saying it would be “inappropriate” for the government to do so. The pilot was captured by Islamic State fighters in December when his fighter jet crashed near the State’s capital.
The Jordanian government also refused to comment on the status of their pilot. Jordan offered to exchange an imprisoned al-Qaeda fighter for their pilot, but said they never received proof that he was alive.
Goto was a freelance journalist and a father who dedicated his life to documenting warzones and impoverished areas of the world. He was 47-years-old at the time of his murder.
“Kenji has died, and my heart is broken. Facing such a tragic death, I’m just speechless,” Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, told reporters.
“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,” said Goto’s brother, Junichi Goto.
The father of the other Japanese journalist murdered by the Islamic State, who was held hostage along with Goto, Shoichi said “I just have no words. It’s utterly heartbreaking”.
“People killing other people — it’s so deplorable. How can this be happening?”
The Japanese Prime Minister said that the country will not give in to terrorism and will continue to support its allies in fighting the Islamic State.
The Japanese Defence Minister, General Nakatani, said the police considered the video released by the Islamic State “highly likely to be authentic”.
According to people close to Goto, he went to Syria in late October to rescue Haruna Yukawa, another journalist who was captured by the Islamic State in August. The IS released a video earlier purportedly showing his murder.
The White House released a statement condemning “the heinous murder” and said Goto was a brave man who “courageously sought to convey the plight of the Syrian people to the outside world”.
On Jan. 30, friends and family of the captured airman visited Muath al-Kaseasbeh’s home in Karak, southern Jordan, to attend a candlelit vigil.
“We decided to hold this protest to remind the Jordanian government of the issue of the imprisoned pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh,” said Jawdat al-Kaseasbeh, the pilot’s brother as he held up a picture of his sibling with a caption: “We are all Muath.”
The pilot’s uncle, Yassin Rawashda, said his family just wants to know that the government is doing what it can to keep him alive and return him home.
“We want to know how the negotiations are going … in a positive direction or not. And we want the family to be (involved) in the course of negotiations,” he said.
The IS released an online message saying the Jordanian government had until Jan. 29 to release the al-Qaeda fighter, Sajijda al-Rishawi, or they would execute the pilot.
Jordan and Japan held indirect negotiations with the IS via Iraqi tribal leaders but Japan’s deputy foreign minister said the negotiations were at a standstill as of Jan 30.
The militants were demanding $200 million for the lives of Goto and Yukawa. Al-Rishawi is on death row in Jordan for her involvement in hotel bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed sixty people, the worst terror attacks in Jordan’s history.
Al-Rishawi has relatives with ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group that spawned the Islamic State.