A Japanese hostage was shown killed in a purported Islamic State video after a deadline passed for Japan to pay a $200 million ransom, according to the Japanese government and a terrorist-monitoring group.
Haruna Yukawa, a self-styled security contractor, was beheaded, according to a Twitter post Saturday from SITE Intel Group, based in Bethesda, Maryland. A video was released showing the other Japanese hostage, war correspondent Kenji Goto, pleading for his life and asking for the release of a woman imprisoned in Jordan on accusations of attempting to take part in a suicide bombing.
The beheading is “an abominable act of unforgivable violence,” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said at a press conference in Tokyo. Suga said Yukawa appeared to have been killed and called for Goto’s immediate release.
Islamic State sought to punish the Japanese government for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Jan. 17 pledge of $200 million in nonmilitary aid for nations fighting the militant group, setting the ransom at the same amount. The group set a 72-hour deadline in a separate video released on Jan. 20 that showed the two men kneeling before a knife-wielding militant who said Japan must pay, “otherwise, this knife will become your nightmare.”
On a six-day Middle East trip that ended the day the first video was released, Abe said in a speech in Cairo that allowing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to spread there would impart an “immeasurable” loss on the region. He later denounced the kidnappings as an “unforgivable” act and said his government would never cave in to terrorism, pledging to do everything possible to secure their release.
The prisoner the Islamic State militants want released is Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who tried to detonate an explosive belt at a wedding party at the Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan, in 2005.
The lives of the two Japanese hostages became intertwined when they met in Syria after Yukawa traveled there for the first time last year. Goto, a war correspondent for two decades, had reported from conflict zones across the Middle East and Africa.
Yukawa, 42, went to the region as he sought to reinvent himself as a soldier-of-fortune after a failed business career, a suicide attempt and the death of his wife, he wrote on his personal blog in April. He returned to Syria in July and was captured by Islamic State within weeks of his arrival. The group released a video in August showing a bloodied Yukawa being interrogated.
His capture prompted Goto, a devout Christian, to head to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo seeking his release, according to Kyodo news agency. Goto, born in 1967, ended up a hostage facing the same death sentence, after leaving a video message in which he said his fate was his own responsibility.
Goto’s mother told reporters Friday that her son’s wife recently gave birth to a child.