Japanese hostage reportedly executed in Syria

A video released Saturday purportedly announced the execution of one of the two Japanese hostages being held by the militant group Islamic State in Syria

Japanese officials condemned the apparent execution of Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old unemployed widower who went to Syria in July and was captured the next month.

“This act of terrorism is an outrageous and unacceptable act of violence,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “I feel a strong sense of anger and firmly condemn this. I again strongly demand the immediate release of Mr. Kenji Goto unharmed.”

Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said officials were still working to verifying the video and a photo shown on it, Reuters reported.

The video, which was released on YouTube before being deleted, showed an image of Goto, a veteran war correspondent, wearing an orange t-shirt over an audio recording of Goto apparently speaking in English, saying that Yukawa had been executed and that ISIS demanded a prisoner exchange by Jordanian authorities for Goto to be spared.

Friends and colleagues of Goto said he went to Syria in late October seeking to secure Yukawa’s release, Reuters reported, for which ISIS militants had previously demanded $200 million.

But militants on a website affiliated with the Islamic State group disagreed about the message’s authenticity, the Associated Press reported.

“We are using every diplomatic channel and means to work towards a release,” Abe told reporters in brief remarks after a hastily-called meeting with his foreign, defense and other ministers.

U.S. intelligence agencies were also working to verify the authenticity of the recording Saturday, U.S. National Security Council deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.

The United States strongly condemns ISIL’s actions and we call for the immediate release of all the remaining  hostages,” Ventrell said. “The United States is fully supportive of Japan in this matter. We stand in solidarity with Japan and are coordinating closely.”

If the video’s authenticity is confirmed, it would be the first time Islamic State, which has beheaded several foreign hostages, has issued a recording rather than a video to announce such a killing, Reuters reported.

Also on Saturday, President Barack Obama issued a statement condemning the “brutal murder.”

“We renew our call for the immediate release of Kenji Goto and all other remaining hostages,” Obama said in a statement. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Japan and applaud its commitment to peace and development in a region far from its shores. We will work together to bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice and will continue to take decisive action to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”