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Feb 1, 2015 2:40 AM

Horror in Japan as video purports to show hostage beheaded

The Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) The wife of slain Japanese hostage Kenji Goto said Monday she was devastated but proud of her husband, who was beheaded by Islamic State extremists.

In a statement issued through the British-based journalist group Rory Peck Trust, Rinko Jogo requested privacy for her family as they deal with their loss, and thanked those who had supported them.

"I remain extremely proud of my husband, who reported the plight of people in conflict areas like Iraq, Somalia and Syria," she said.

"It was his passion to highlight the effects on ordinary people, especially through the eyes of children, and to inform the rest of us of the tragedies of war," she said.

Goto left for Syria in late October just a few weeks after the birth of the couple's youngest daughter. Soon after, he was captured by the militants.

Appalled and saddened by news of Goto's following the release of a video showing his killing, purportedly by the Islamic State group, Japan has ordered heightened security precautions at airports and at Japanese facilities overseas, such as embassies and schools.

The government also has called on all journalists and others in areas near the conflict to withdraw, given the risk of further kidnappings or other threats.

Until now, Japan had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants.

In parliamentary debate Monday, opposition lawmakers challenged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to raise Japan's diplomatic profile through non-military support for countries fighting the Islamic State group, which control about a third of both Syria and Iraq.

Citing previous cases, including a 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo's subways, Abe said he did not see an increased terrorist risk following savage threats in the purported Islamic State group video, which vowed to target Japanese and make the knife Goto's killer was wielding Japan's "nightmare."

Japan will not be cowed by such threats, Abe said.

"The terrorists are criminals," he said. "We are determined to pursue them and hold them accountable."

Abe said Japan will persevere in providing humanitarian aid to countries fighting Islamic State extremists, saying that bowing to terrorist intimidation would prevent Japan from providing medical assistance and other aid it views as necessary for helping to restore stability in the region.

The failure to save Goto raised fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot also held by the Islamic State militants.

Jordan renewed an offer Sunday to swap an al-Qaida prisoner for the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who was seized after his F-16 crashed near the Islamic State group's de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria, in December.

Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told The Associated Press that "we are still ready to hand over" prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi, who faces death by hanging for her role in triple hotel bombings in Jordan in 2005. Al-Rishawi has close family ties to the Iraq branch of al-Qaida, a precursor of the Islamic State group.

With no updates for days, al-Kaseasbeh's family appealed to the government for information on his situation. But for Goto's family and friends, the beheading shattered any hopes for his rescue.

Jogo, Goto's wife, said she had received several emails from unknown people claiming to be her husband's captors. But the hostage crisis became a national issue after the militants issued a demand for $200 million in ransom, to be paid within 72 hours, on Jan. 20.

Later, the militants' demand shifted to seeking the release of al-Rishawi, who survived the 2005 attack that killed 60 people when her explosive belt failed to detonate in the worst terror attack in Jordan's history.

Jordan and Japan reportedly conducted indirect negotiations with the militants through Iraqi tribal leaders, but late on Friday the Japanese envoy sent to Amman to work on the hostage crisis reported a deadlock in those efforts.

The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Sunday demanding "the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all those who are kept hostage" by the Islamic State group. Council members underlined the need to bring those responsible for Goto's "heinous and cowardly murder" to justice and stressed that the Islamic State group "must be defeated and that the intolerance, violence and hatred it espouses must be stamped out."


Laub reported from Amman, Jordan.


Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Cairo, Najib Abu Jobein in Karak, Jordan, and Mari Yamaguchi, Yuri Kageyama, Noriko Kitano, Kaori Hitomi, Emily Wang, Miki Toda in Tokyo contributed to this report.


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