Militant terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has reportedly beheaded Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa, according to a video uploaded to ISIS-linked social media accounts. On Saturday morning, a video surfaced on Twitter of hostage Kenji Goto Jogo, a Japanese freelance journalist, holding up a photo of beheaded hostage Yukawa, a security contractor who traveled to Syria for business. SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks global terrorism and the jihadist network online, first broke the news. However, the Japanese government is still trying to verify the authenticity of the video.
In the purported ISIS video, Goto is seen in shackles as he shows a picture of Yukawa's corpse to the camera. Goto says in the video:
I am Kenji Goto Jogo. 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.
ISIS first released a video showing the two Japanese hostages, clad in bright orange jumpsuits, on Tuesday. In the video, the group threatened to execute the two men unless the Japanese government paid $200 million for their safe release. ISIS gave the Japanese government just 72 hours — Friday afternoon — to deliver the ransom.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed earlier this week that he would not "give in to terrorism." A statement from the prime minister's cabinet also denounced the hostage situation and threat of execution as "an act of blackmailing" that is "utterly impermissible." On Wednesday, Abe held an emergency cabinet meeting, where he reportedly discussed going through third-party channels to negotiate the safe release of Yukawa and Goto.
According to the Associated Press, Japanese government officials have convened an emergency meeting on Saturday as they work to authenticate the purported execution video. Abe told reporters as he went into the meeting that, if true, the execution was "an outrageous and unforgivable act."
Goto's fate is now uncertain. In the video, the captive journalist claims ISIS is no longer demanding money, but the release of alleged attempted suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, who is currently imprisoned in Jordan. Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death by hanging by a Jordanian military court, but is in the process of appealing her sentence.
"You don't need to worry about funding terrorists," Goto says in the video. "They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi."
On Friday, Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, made a public plea to both the Japanese government and ISIS. "Please, Japanese government, save my son's life," Ishido said.
Image: Getty Images, screenshot/Associated Press