New video of Islamic State captive Goto 'despicable', says Japan PM

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2015 9:20 PM

By Elaine Lies and Takashi Umekawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday termed as "despicable" a new video appearing to show Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is being held by Islamic State militants, saying he could be killed in 24 hours.

"The video is despicable and I feel strong anger," Abe told reporters. Earlier, at the start of a meeting of cabinet ministers, he reiterated that Japan was calling on Jordan to cooperate in working for Goto's quick release.

A voice on the video said Goto would be killed unless Jordan frees would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi from death row, and that another Islamic State captive, Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, has a shorter time to live than Goto.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it appeared to show Goto and the voice resembled that of a video on Saturday that U.S. and Japanese officials have said appeared to be genuine.

Jordanian state television, quoting an army source, said authorities were trying to authenticate the video. It would be the third involving the 47-year-old Goto, a veteran war reporter.

"The relevant agencies are working on verifying the authenticity of the voice recording that is attributed to Daesh," the source said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The hostage issue is the deepest diplomatic crisis Abe has faced in just over two years in office.

"MAKING EVERY EFFORT"

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on earlier on Wednesday that Tokyo was making every effort in close coordination with Jordan to secure the captives' early release, but he declined comment on the content of those discussions.

Kishida also said that Japan had confirmed the existence of the video at 11 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Tuesday.

Bassam Al-Manaseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Jordan’s lower house of parliament, said in an interview with Bloomberg news agency in Amman that Jordan was in indirect talks with Islamic State to secure the release of Goto and al-Kasaesbe. He said the talks were taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq.

“We hope to hear good news soon,” Bloomberg quoted Manaseer as saying.

Several hundred people, including relatives of the Jordanian pilot, gathered in front of the office of Jordan's prime minister late on Tuesday, urging the authorities to meet the demands of Islamic State and release al–Rishawi to save the young pilot's life.

Kasaesbeh was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against the militants.

Safi Kasaesbeh, the father of the pilot, told reporters no official had contacted him after the release of the second video. "I call on all Jordanians to stand as one, calling for the end of Muath's captivity quickly. They have to meet any demand made by Islamic State," he said.

Goto went to Syria in late October in order, according to friends and business associates, to seek the release of Haruna Yukawa, his friend and fellow Japanese citizen who was captured in August.

In the first video released last week, a black-clad masked figure with a knife said Goto and Yukawa would be killed within 72 hours if Japan did not pay Islamic State $200 million. The captor resembled a figure from previous Islamic State videos whose British-accented threats have preceded beheadings.

A video on Saturday appeared to show Goto with a picture of a beheaded Yukawa, saying his captors' demands had switched to the release of al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman held by Jordan for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing that killed 60 people in Amman.

"Time is now running very short," the latest video said, with an audio track over a still picture that appears to show Goto holding a picture of the pilot.

Officials involved in the crisis say Tokyo knew for months that Islamic State militants were holding two Japanese men captive, but appeared ill-prepared when the group set a ransom deadline and purportedly killed one of them.

Opposition parties have largely refrained from criticising the government, but its response to the crisis is bound to figure in a coming debate over military policy that could in future allow Japan to offer logistical support for campaigns like the U.S.-led bombings in Syria.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki and Nobuhiro Kubo in Tokyo, Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Ali Abdelatty and Mostafa Hashem in Cairo, Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)