Islamic State (Isis) militants have released a video which appears to show the murder of a journalist at the centre of hostage negotiations with the Japanese government.
With similarities to previous video messages showing the beheadings of Western captives in Syria, Kenji Goto, 47, was shown kneeling in front of a masked man armed with a knife, in a film which was titled: A Message To The Japanese Government.
Unlike past murders, however, the reported killing followed negotiations with Isis aimed at freeing Mr Goto, and the release of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh.
Mr Goto, an experienced freelance reporter who went to Syria in October, had previously been forced to hold up a picture which appeared to show the aftermath of the beheading of another Japanese hostage, private security consultant Haruna Yukawa.
On Saturday evening, the Japanese authorities were investigating the film to check its authenticity.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “I will never forgive these terrorists. Japan will work with the international community to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added: “I cannot help feeling strong indignation that an inhuman and despicable act of terrorism like this has been committed again. We resolutely condemn this.”
He said that cabinet ministers would now meet to discuss the government’s response.
“It is so sad, but Kenji has left us on a journey,” said Junko Ishido, 78, Mr Goto's mother. “Please forgive me for not finding any words.”
British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: "I utterly condemn what appears to be the despicable and appalling murder of Kenji Goto. It is a further reminder that ISIL (Isis) is the embodiment of evil, with no regard for human life.
"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Mr Goto and Mr Yukawa and the Japanese people as they come to terms with the murder of two innocent citizens in such a brutal manner. Britain stands united with Japan at this tragic time and we will do all we can to hunt down these murderers and bring them to justice, however long it takes.
"The Japanese Government is right not to bow to terrorism. The way we will defeat ISIL is not by giving in to these terrorists but by confronting them and their poisonous ideology. With determination and patience, we will work together with Japan and our other allies to extinguish this terrorist threat and to stand up for the values of tolerance and peace."
Isis had initially asked for a $200 million ransom for the release of the two Japanese men. Mr Yukawa was captured last summer near Aleppo and Mr Goto had reportedly travelled to the region to try and help secure his release.
After Isis had reported that Mr Yukawa been killed this week, the demands changed with a call for Jordan to release Sajida al-Rishawi, who has been held since 2005 in relation to bomb attacks on hotels in Amman.
Jordan has itself been threatened with the murder of Lieutenant Kasasbeh. He was captured when his plane crashed in Syria on Christmas Eve. Jordan has demanded proof that he is still alive and there was no prisoner exchange at sunset on Thursday, as Isis had demanded. The group warned that Lt Kasasbeh would be killed if Rishawi was not brought out from custody.
By late on Friday, Japan’s deputy foreign minister Yasuhide Nakayama had warned that their negotiations were “in a state of deadlock”.
While Isis delivered its ransom demands, Mr Goto’s family had publicly called for Mr Abe to negotiate. His mother said in an appeal last week: “Kenji was always saying 'I hope to save lives of children on battlefields'. He was reporting war from a neutral position.”
On social media, an ‘I am Kenji’ campaign had developed in recent days, using the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ motif that internet users used to show solidarity after the gun killings at French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices earlier this month.
In the video released on Saturday, the apparent killer spoke with a British-sounding accent. Mr Goto did not speak in the one-minute long film.
The masked man blamed Mr Abe’s policies and warned that Japan was now a target, claiming that it was now “foolish allies in the Satanic coalition.”
Timeline: The emergence of Isis
Timeline: The emergence of Isis
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (pictured here) forms an al-Qaeda splinter group in Iraq, al-Qa’eda in Iraq. Its brutality from the beginning alienates Iraqis and many al-Qaeda leaders.
Al-Zarqawi is killed in a U.S. strike. Al-Zarqawi’s successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, announces the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI).
Still al-Qaeda-linked ISI claims responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 155 in Baghdad, as well as attacks in August and October killing 240, as President Obama announces troop withdrawal from Iraq in March.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes head of ISI, at lowest ebb of Islamist militancy in Iraq, which sees last U.S. combat brigade depart.
In Syria, protests (pictured here starting in Daree) have morphed into what president Assad labelled a “real war” with emergence of a coalition of forces opposed to Assad’s regime. Syria group Jabhat al-Nusra are among rebel groups who refuse to join, denouncing it as a “conspiracy”. Bombings targeting Shia areas, killing more than 500 people, spark fears of new sectarian conflict. Sunni Muslims stage protests across country against what they see as increasingly marginalisation by Shia-led government.
Al-Baghdadi renames ISI as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Isis, as the group absorbs Syrian al-Nusra, gaining a foothold in Syria. In response, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri (Bin Laden’s successor) concerned about Isis’ expansion orders that Isis be dissolved and ISI operations should be confined to Iraq. This order is rejected by al-Baghdadi.
7/40 2014 - January
Isis fighters capture the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, giving them base to launch slew of attacks further south.
8/40 2014 - June
Isis declares itself the Caliphate, calling itself Islamic State (IS). The group captures Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city; Tal Afar, just 93 miles from Syrian border; and the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. These advances sent shockwaves around the world.
9/40 2014 - June
Around the same time Isis releases a video calling for western Muslims to join the Caliphate and fight, prompting new evaluations of extremists groups social media understanding.
10/40 2014 - June
Isis take Baiji oil fields in Iraq - giving them access to huge amounts of possible revenue.
11/40 2014 - August
James Foley is executed by the group as concerns grow for second American prisoner, fellow reporter Steven Sotloff.
12/40 2014 - August
Obama authorises U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, helping to stall Isis’ along with action by Kurdish forces following the deaths of hundreds of Yazidi people on Mount Sinjar.
13/40 2014 - September
Isis release video showing Steven Sotloff’s murder prompting Western speculation his executioner is same man who killed Mr Foley.
14/40 2014 - September
Obama tells us that America “will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country”
15/40 2014 - September
Isis release a video appearing to show David Haines, who was captured by militants in Syria in 2013, wearing an orange jumpsuit and kneeling in the desert while he reads a pre-prepared script. It later shows what appears to be the aid worker's body.
16/40 2014 - September
Peshmerga fighters scrabble to hold positions in the Diyala province (a gateway to Baghdad) as Isis fighters continue to advance on Iraqi capital.
17/40 2014 - October
Aid worker Alan Henning is killed. Self-imposed media blackout refuses to show images of him in final moments, instead focuses upon humanitarian care.
18/40 2014 - October
Isis raise their flag in Kobani, which had been strongly defended by Kurdish troops. The victory goes against hopeful western analysis Isis had overextended itself, while alienating much of the Muslim population through the murder of Henning. Victory causes fresh waves of Kurdish refugees arriving in Turkey.
19/40 2014 - November
American hostage, who embarced values of Islam, Peter Kassig and 14 Syrian soldiers are shown meeting the same fate as other captives. But intelligence agencies will be poring over the apparently significant discrepancies between this and previous films.
20/40 2015 - February
Isis has released a video revealing the murder by burning to death of a Jordanian pilot held by the group since the end of December 2014.
21/40 2015 - February
Isis militants have released videos which appear to show the beheading of Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
22/40 2015 - February
American aid worker, Kayla Mueller was the last American hostage known to be held by Isis. She died, according to her captors, in an airstrike by the Jordanian air force on the city of Raqqa in Syria, though US authorities disputed this.
23/40 2015 - February
Isis militants have posted a gruesome video online in which they force 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages to kneel on a beach in Libya before beheading them. Egypt vowed to avenge the beheading and launched air strikes on Isis positions.
24/40 2015 - February
The British Isis militant suspected of appearing in videos showing the beheading of Western hostages has been named in reports as Mohammed Emwazi from London.
25/40 2015 - March
Isis triple suicide attack has killed more than 100 worshippers and hundreds of others were injured after the group members targeted two mosques in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
26/40 2015 - April
Iraqi forces have claimed victory over Isis in battle for Tikrit and raised the flag in the city.
27/40 2015 - April
Isis has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan that killed at least 35 people queuing to collect their wages and injured 100 more.
28/40 2015 - April
Isis’ media arm released a 29-minute video purporting to show militants executing Ethiopian Christians captives. The footage bore the extremist group’s al-Furqan media logo and showed the destruction of churches and desecration of religious symbols. A masked fighter made a statement threatening Christians who did not convert to Islam or pay a special tax.
29/40 2015 - May
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis has been "incapacitated" by a spinal injuries sustained in a US air strike in Iraq. He is being treated in a hideout by two doctors from Isis’ stronghold of Mosul who are said to be "strong ideological supporters of the group".
30/40 2015 - May
Isis has also claimed responsibility for killing 300 of Yazidi captives, including women, children and elderly people in Iraq
31/40 2015 - May
Isis attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas was its first action on US soil. Two gunmen were shot and killed after launching the attack at the exhibition. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi have been named as the attackers at the Curtis Culwell Centre arena in Garland.
32/40 2015 - May
Isis’s deputy leader, Abu Alaa Afri, a former physics teacher who was thought to have taken charge of the deadly terrorist group, has been killed in a US-led coalition airstrike.
33/40 2015 - May
US special forces have killed a senior Isis leader named as Abu Sayyaf in an operation aiming to capture him and his wife in Syria.
34/40 2015 - May
Iran-backed militias are sent to Ramadi by the Iraqi government to fight Isis militants who completed their capture of the city. Government soldiers and civilians were reportedly massacred by extremists as they took control and the army fled. Charred bodies were left littering the city streets as troops clung on to trucks speeding away from the city. Ramadi is the latest government stronghold to fall to the so-called Islamic State, despite air strikes by a US-led international coalition aiming to stop its advance in Iraq and Syria.
35/40 2015 - May
Isis rounded up civilians trapped in Palmyra and forced them to watch 20 people being executed in the historic city’s ancient amphitheatre. The Unesco World Heritage site was overrun by militants, threatening the future of 2,000 year-old monuments and ruins. Thousands of Palmyra’s residents fled but many are still living within the city walls, while the UN human rights office in Geneva said it had received reports of Syrian government forces preventing people from leaving until they retreated from the city.
36/40 2015 - May
A group of Isis-affiliated fighters have captured a key airport in central Libya. The militants took control of the al-Qardabiya airbase in Sirte after a local militia tasked with defending the facility withdrew from their positions. Affiliates of Isis, already control large parts of Sirte, the birthplace of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and a former stronghold of his supporters.
37/40 2015 - June
The US Air Force has destroyed an Isis stronghold after an extremist let slip their location on social media. According the Air Force Times, General Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said that Airmen at Hulburt Field, Florida, used images shared by jihadists to track the location of their headquarters before destroying it in an airstrike.
38/40 2015 - June
Kurdish forces captured a key military base in a significant victory in Raqqa as well as town of Tell Abyad. YPG fighters, backed by US-led airstrikes and other rebels, consolidated their gains, when they seized the key town on the Syria-Turkey border. They are now just 30 miles to the north of Raqqa and have cut off a major supply route deep inside Isis-held territory.
39/40 2015 - June
Isis has released gruesome footage claiming to show the murder of more than a dozen men by drowning, decapitation and using a rocket-propelled grenade as it seeks to boost morale among its fanatical supporters.
40/40 2015 - June
Isis has begun carrying out its threat to destroy structures in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, blowing up at least two monuments at the Unesco-protected site as Syrian government troops made advances on the Islamist’s positions.
While Japan has not sent military assistance to face Isis in Syria and Iraq, it pledged $200 million dollars in aid and to help train the local resistance.
Three Americans and two Britons have been killed in similar circumstances, although without public demands for ransoms of money or prisoner exchanges.
US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded, before British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.
Abdul-Rahman Kassig, formerly known as Peter Kassig, an American aid worker, was also killed.
On Saturday evening, White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said: “We have seen the video purporting to show that Japanese citizen Kenji Goto has been murdered by the terrorist group ISIL. We are working to confirm its authenticity. The United States strongly condemns ISIL's actions and we call for the immediate release of all remaining hostages. We stand in solidarity with our ally Japan.”
The latest purported Isis video sees the return of elements seen in previous films following a departure in recent days when it resorted to issuing a number of audio messages.
The film shows a masked jihadist who looks and sounds like a militant with a British accent featured in previous videos. It also bears the mark of Isis’s al-Furqan media arm. Both elements have been the norm in videos where Western hostages have been murdered.
On 24 January and 27 January Isis issued films but these messages had contained no video. Rather Goto’s voice and a still image of him appeared. In the first he carried a picture of the body of the other murdered Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, and in the second an apparently manipulated image of the Jordanian pilot Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh, another hostage. The two messages were against a blank white background.
Some have suggested the change in style is because they are rush production jobs, churned out due to the speed at which events were unfolding. Others speculated that the bombardment from the US-led coalition on Isis positions could have forced the change, making it too dangerous to film outside.
It is impossible to know when the latest film was made. The location is a hilly, scrub-covered region unlike the sand dunes in previous video releases. Mr Goto is silent, whereas the final words of previous hostages have been heard.
A cruel timeline
28 July Haruna Yukawa travels to the Middle East.
14 Aug He is kidnapped; video of interrogation posted on the internet.
25 Oct Journalist Kenji Goto departs for Syria. reportedly to find Yukawa.
17Jan Japan PM Shinzo Abe pledges $200m aid to countries fighting Isis.
20 Jan Isis video of Goto and Yukawa demands $200m ransom in 72 hours.
24 Jan Video is posted featuring an image of Goto holding up a picture of Yukawa’s decapitated body.
27 Jan Isis releases video; still image of Goto holds a picture of captured Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
29 Jan Goto’s wife issues plea for her husband to be freed.
31 Jan Isis releases video of militant with UK accent beheading Goto.Reuse content