Isis hostage video: Japanese PM says 'outrageous' execution of Haruna Yukawa is likely to be genuine

The 'Islamic State' militant group claims to have murdered one Japanese hostage and demanded a prisoner exchange for the other, Kenji Goto

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The Independent Online

A video that appears to show the body of one of two Japanese citizens held hostage by the Isis militant group has a “high” chance of being genuine, the country’s prime minister has said.

Shinzo Abe said the release of an image apparently showing the decapitated body of 47-year-old Haruna Yukawa was “outrageous”, and demanded the immediate release of a second captive, 42-year-old Kenji Goto.

Mr Yukawa’s father said he was overwhelmed by grief “that it has finally come to this” in an interview with public service broadcaster NHK. He added that, with Japanese officials still working to verify the authenticity of the footage, he had hope “deep in my heart that this is not true” and said he would give his son a “big hug” if they were reunited.

The US President, Barack Obama, condemned what he described as Mr Yukawa’s “brutal murder” and said the US stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Japan. As Mr Obama arrived for a state visit to India, White House officials said he had already phoned Mr Abe to offer his condolences.

There remains some doubt as to the veracity of Isis’s apparent claim to have murdered Mr Yukawa. The three-minute video differs from previous releases declaring hostage executions, with a single still image showing Mr Goto holding a photograph of what appears to be Mr Yukawa’s body.

Experts said the image of Mr Yukawa had been photoshopped to show what appeared to be his body alongside a still from an old video, while the footage lacked the usual introduction and logos used by Isis and did not originate from the group’s al-Furqan media arm.

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Kenji Goto (L) and Haruna Yukawa (R), held hostage by Isis

But after an initial hesitation, the video is now being widely shared by prominent Isis supporters online, one of whom has claimed that “brothers confirmed its content is true”.

Mr Abe declined to comment on the audio accompanying the image, in which a voice thought to be that of Mr Goto asks – in English – for a hostage exchange to save his life.

He says the militants will set him free if Jordan releases Sajida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, a woman convicted of taking part in a 2005 bombing that killed scores of people in the Jordanian capital Amman.

Mr Goto, a freelance documentary maker, reportedly travelled to Syria in a bid to secure Mr Yukawa’s release, before he was himself taken hostage.

His mother, Junko Ishido, told NHK: “First of all I wish it weren't true, that it's some mistake. I'm a mother so it's unbearable. What I want to tell [Isis] is that Kenji's ideal is world peace.” She was later quoted by the Kyodo news agency as doubting her son would seek a prisoner exchange.

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