TOKYO (AP/AFP) – Appalled and saddened by news of journalist Kenji Goto’s purported beheading by Islamic State extremists, Japan ordered heightened security precautions Sunday and said it would persist with its non-military support for fighting terrorism.
The failure to save Goto raised fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot also held by the militant group that controls about a third of both Syria and Iraq. Unlike some earlier messages delivered in the crisis, the video that circulated online late Saturday purporting to show a militant beheading Goto did not mention the pilot.
Jordan renewed an offer Sunday to swap an Al-Qaeda prisoner for the pilot, Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who was seized after his F-16 crashed near the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria, in December.
The slaying of Goto, a freelance reporter whose work focused on refugees, children and other victims of war, shocked this country, which until now had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants.
Global leaders swiftly condemned the act with US President Barack Obama calling it a “the heinous murder” and praised Goto’s reporting, saying he “courageously sought to convey the plight of the Syrian people to the outside world”.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who spoke by telephone with PM Shinzo Abe, denounced Goto’s murder as a “cowardly, criminal act” and offered condolences to his family.
“I can’t find the words to describe how I feel about my son’s very sad death,” a sobbing Junko Ishido, Goto’s mother, told reporters.
A spokesman for UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the “barbaric murder… underscores the violence that so many have been subjected to in Iraq and Syria”.
Paris and London also denounced the video, with British Prime Minister David Cameron saying it was “a further reminder that (IS) is the embodiment of evil, with no regard for human life”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the apparent killing an “abhorrent, inhuman” act. Goto’s wife Rinko broke her silence last week to plead for her husband’s return.
The couple had a second child just weeks before Goto left for Syria late last year, in a bid to find his friend Yukawa. He was later captured himself.
The Council of Arab Ambassadors to Japan said in a statement it “deplores that such a barbaric act was committed…in the name of Islam”.