Islamic State has apparently executed one of the Japanese hostages the terror group was holding, according to a video posted online showing the second hostage holding a picture of the other prisoner’s severed head.
ISIS is now demanding an exchange of prisoners for the other hostages life — a Jordanian woman who was convicted of assisting in a terrorist attack against several hotels in 2005.
The static image, shown in a video file posted by a known ISIS supporter, shows surviving Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, alone, in handcuffs and dressed in orange, holding a photo of what appears to be beheaded compatriot Haruna Yukawa.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that the video is “highly credible.” U.S. authorities said they had no reason to doubt its authenticity.
Abe told Japanese broadcaster NHK that the killing was “abominable” and “unforgivable,” demanding the immediate release of Goto.
NHK also reported comments from Yukawa’s father.
“I still don’t want to believe it,” Shoichi Yukawa said, his face not shown in the report. “If I can see him again, I’d like to hold him in my arms.”
Saturday’s posting, came four days after an ISIS video demanded that the Japanese government pay $200 million within 72 hours for the two hostages’ release.
In the video released Saturday, the voice of a person claiming to be Goto says in English that Abe is to blame for Yukawa’s death.
“You were given a deadline,” he says.
The voice then relays the apparent new demand from ISIS — the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman arrested in Jordan in 2005 on suspicion of trying to take part in an attack in which others killed dozens at Jordanian hotels.
“They no longer want money, so you don’t need to worry about funding terrorists,” the voice says. “They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abe talked by phone on Saturday, according Jordanian state news agency Petra.
The news agency did not detail what the two discussed beyond saying they “reviewed the latest developments in the Middle East.”
Will Abdullah help? It appears that ISIS carefully chose the subject for its prisoner swap. Sajida al-Rishaw is a failed suicide bomber who took part in a horrific series of attacks on 3 major hotels in Amman, Jordan in 2005. Her husband was one of the attackers killed when his explosives belt blew up.
Most significantly, according to Jordanian authorities, she is also thought to be a sister of a close aide to the deceased leader of the forerunner to ISIS, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed during the war but many of his aides survived to create Islamic State.
The 2005 attacks in Amman killed 60 people, so it’s doubtful King Abdullah would let such a dangerous person go. There was no deadline set in this latest message, but if Abdullah, as expected, denies the request of ISIS for the swap, Mr. Goto’s days will be numbered.