TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was “speechless” after a video uploaded Saturday appeared to show the decapitated body of Haruna Yukawa, one of two Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State.
The group also appears to have changed its demand, dropping its $200 million ransom requirement and instead seeking to swap the other hostage, Kenji Goto, for an Iraqi woman linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq who is imprisoned in Jordan.
The video, which could not immediately be verified, featured a still image of Goto in an orange jumpsuit and with chained hands, holding a grisly composite photo showing Yukawa kneeling, then beheaded.
In a voice-over in English, a man purporting to be Goto said Yukawa had been “slaughtered in the land of the Islamic caliphate.”
“You were warned. You were given a deadline, and so my captors acted upon their words,” the man said. “Abe, you killed Haruna. You did not take the threat of my captors seriously. And you did not act within that 72 hours.”
Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the video was also e-mailed to Goto’s wife.
In a video released Tuesday, a black-clad jihadist demanded that a $200 million ransom be paid within three days to free the men. That deadline passed Friday, with the Japanese government frantically trying to reach the group holding the men while seeking the advice of countries whose citizens have been killed or released.
Before Yukawa, five men — three Americans and two Britons — had been beheaded. But this incident differed in that a specific ransom was publicly demanded and the video did not show the execution, leading to questions about its authenticity.
The Site Intelligence Group, which has been monitoring the videos, confirmed that Saturday’s video was an official Islamic State release despite having been made in a different style from other beheading videos.
Early Sunday, Abe said that Yukawa “seems to have been murdered.”
“Fully aware of unbearable pain and sorrow that his family must be feeling, I am simply left speechless,” he said in a statement. “Such an act of terrorism is outrageous and impermissible, which causes me nothing but strong indignation. Thus I express resolute condemnation.”
President Obama spoke by phone from New Delhi, India, with Abe on Sunday to offer condolences for the murder of Yukawa and to convey solidarity with the Japanese people, the White House said He also expressed appreciation for Japan’s significant contributions of humanitarian assistance to the Middle East region. The two leaders agreed to continue their cooperation on a range of regional and global issues, the statement said.
In the video released Saturday, the voice purported to be Goto’s said that the Islamic State was dropping its ransom demand and was instead seeking a prisoner exchange.
“Their demand is easier. They are being fair. They no longer want money. So you do not need to worry about funding terrorists. They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister, Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi,” the voice said. “It is simple. You give them Sajida, and I will be released.”
Rishawi, an Iraqi, is thought to have been involved in a suicide attack in Jordan on three Amman hotels in 2005, which killed 57 people. Her husband was killed, but when Rishawi went to the Radisson hotel, her suicide belt failed to detonate.
She is also believed to be the sister of a close aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a precursor to the Islamic State.