The Japanese government is trying to verify claims that one of the two hostages held by Islamic State has been killed.
Japanese news outlet NHK World says the video shows journalist Kenji Goto in an orange jumpsuit holding a photo of second hostage Haruna Yukawa, who he says has been killed.
In the video, Goto is seen holding up a photo, which shows what is alleged to be Yukawa’s beheaded body. “You have seen the photo of my cellmate Haruna slaughtered in the land of the Islamic Caliphate. You were warned,” Goto says in English, according to transcripts of the video.
While the video has been removed from YouTube, jihadists on Twitter have been circulating copies of it hosted on various clandestine websites. A copy of the video [WARNING: GRAPHIC] can be seen here, and below, an image of the video posted by a jihadist sympathizer on Twitter:
— #ترجمان الجزيرة (@t00_t123) January 24, 2015
Goto also states that the Islamic State is no longer demanding $200 million dollars in exchange for his life. “They no longer want money, so you don’t need to worry about funding terrorists,” Goto says in the video. Instead, the jihadists demand the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman arrested as a failed suicide bomber and currently serving her term in Jordan. While her own suicide attempt failed, al-Rishawi confessed on Jordanian television to involvement in a separate attack that killed 57 people.
It is not certain whether the reduction in demands is due to losing leverage by killing one of the hostages, or is a tacit response to the Japanese government’s $100 million pledge this week to the government of Palestine for aid in reconstructing Gaza after Operation Protective Edge this summer.
Yukawa was believed to be suffering from severe mental illness, having on multiple occasions attempted suicide and committed self-mutilation. Some believe his voyage to Syria was intended to end in his death.
The Japanese government is now reportedly trying to verify the video. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “an outrageous and unforgivable act. We demand their immediate release.”
A spokesman for the Japanese government said the apparent killing was “outrageous and unacceptable”.