Japan has warned its citizens to be vigilant – as the country becomes thrust into the dangers of geopolitical entanglement with the second apparent murder by Isis of one of its own.
Warnings directed at Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, have been issued by militants in a video appearing to show the execution of Japanese reporter Kenji Goto.
Mr Abe has called the apparent killing “unforgivable and cowardly”.
It follows negotiations with Isis aimed at freeing Mr Goto, and the release of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
Officials in Tokyo say they are taking the threats seriously: Japanese consulates have been issued with fresh warnings, and tourists, businesses and even Japanese schools abroad have been told to be vigilant against possible incidents.
Japan has thousands of civil servants, businesspeople and volunteers across the Middle East, which supplies most of its crude oil. The apparent death of Mr Goto, an experienced freelance journalist who had covered the region for years, has stunned the nation.
Junko Ishido, Mr Goto’s mother, said her “heart was broken” by news of her son’s death. “I am too upset to find the words to express myself,” she said. “He only wanted to make the world a more peaceful place.”
Muslims in Japan condemned the murder. Prayers were said for Mr Goto, 47, in Tokyo’s mosques yesterday. “We share the feelings of all Japanese,” said Bilal Atalay, spokesman for the nation’s largest mosque, Tokyo Camii. “These people have nothing to do with Islam.”
The video, which has all the hallmarks of previous Isis propaganda videos, has not been authenticated, but Japanese officials believe it is genuine.
In it, a masked man said Mr Abe’s decision to take part in “an unwinnable war” made Japan a target for the jihadist group. The video comes less than a week after the apparent beheading of another Japanese man, private security consultant Haruna Yukawa.
Mr Goto’s friends said he had returned to Isis-controlled territory to rescue Mr Yukawa. “My heart is bursting with sadness,” Mr Yukawa’s father, Shoichi Yukawa, said last night. “He was a brave, decent man who went to help my son.”
Mr Abe has faced criticism for attempting to pull Japan away from decades of quiet diplomacy in the Middle East and take a more muscular, American-led line on militant Islam. The threat to kill the two Japanese hostages was issued after he promised $200m in non-military aid to countries fighting Isis during a high-profile visit to the region.
“I think Japanese people must be prepared for more threats,” warned Tomohiko Taniguchi, an adviser to Mr Abe’s cabinet. Japan will host a string of major international events, including the G8 Summit next year and the Olympics in 2020. “Japan, naturally, is going to attract more attention than otherwise,” said Mr Taniguchi.
In the wake of the reported double murders, some in Mr Abe’s government say they will push for Japan’s military, long constrained by the country’s pacifist constitution, to launch rescue missions abroad.
“Mr Goto was trying to bring people together by covering the poor, war and the causes of war,” said Shigeru Shimoyama, a prominent Tokyo-based Muslim. “That’s what we have to remember tonight.”
World leaders have reacted with outrage to the latest apparent beheading.
David Cameron said: “I utterly condemn what appears to be the despicable and appalling murder of Kenji Goto. It is a further reminder that Isis is the embodiment of evil, with no regard for human life.”
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