TOKYO — The Islamic State released a video Saturday purportedly showing the beheading of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist being held hostage by the extremist group, after negotiations for a prisoner exchange stalled.
Japan strongly condemned the killing, saying an “atrocious act of terrorism” had been committed and that the country was “outraged by the horrific act.”
Japanese and Jordanian authorities had been negotiating for days to swap Goto and another hostage, Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh, for an Iraqi woman who is on death row in Jordan for her role in a 2005 triple bombing attack in Amman.
The Islamic State had said that if the woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, was not returned by sunset on Thursday, it would first kill Kaseasbeh, who was captured when his plane crashed in Syria last month, then Goto.
The negotiations appeared to have broken down over Jordan’s insistence on receiving proof the pilot was still alive. Yasuhide Nakayama, Japan’s deputy foreign minister, said late Friday that they were “in a state of deadlock.”
There was no mention of the fate of Kaseasbeh in Saturday’s video, which showed Goto kneeling in the desert wearing an orange outfit, with a black-clad man known as “Jihadi John” standing beside him.
“To the Japanese government: You, like your foolish allies in the Satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we, by Allah’s grace, are an Islamic caliphate with authority and power, an entire army thirsty for your blood,” the man said in English, according to the Site Intelligence group.
“Abe, because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin,” the man said.
The video shows Goto’s beheading, then a body lying on the ground with a head on top of it.
The Japanese government condemned the gruesome video.
“I cannot help feeling strong indignation that an inhuman and despicable act of terrorism like this has been committed again,” said Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, on Sunday local time.
In Washington, White House officials said they were trying to authenticate the video.
“The United States strongly condemns ISIL’s actions, and we call for the immediate release of all the remaining hostages,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “We stand in solidarity with our ally Japan.”
Goto, a 47-year-old father of three, including two daughters under the age of 2, was a freelance video journalist who had been captured by the Islamic State late last year while trying to secure the release of his compatriot, Haruna Yukawa.
Yukawa, a man who had suffered a series of setbacks in his life and had gone to the Middle East on a voyage of self-discovery, appeared to have been beheaded last week. Goto was shown in a previous video holding a photo of an executed man who appeared to be Yukawa.
The two met while traveling in the region. After Yukawa’s capture in August, Goto went back to Syria to try to find him, only to be captured himself in late October.
The men appeared in a hostage video earlier this month while Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, was on a tour of the Middle East. In Cairo, he pledged $200 million in aid for countries who were taking in refugees from the Islamic State, which has taken over swaths of Syria in particular. The Islamic State initially demanded the same amount as a ransom for the two men. Then, after Yukawa’s execution, changed its demand to the prisoner exchange.
On Friday, Goto’s wife, Rinko, issued her first statement. “I fear that this is the last chance for my husband, and we now have only a few hours left to secure his release and the life of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh,” she wrote. “I beg the Jordanian and Japanese Government to understand that the fates of both men are in their hands.”
Their youngest daughter was only 3 weeks old when Goto left to try to rescue Yukawa, she said.