Japan, Jordan take hard line on terror after captive

  02 February 2015    Read: 947
Japan, Jordan take hard line on terror after captive
Japan reacted with sorrow and outrage Sunday to the posting by the Islamic State of a video purporting to show the grisly killing of the journalist Kenji Goto, bringing an end to a hostage standoff that has horrified this usually tranquil nation.
Gripped by anger and disbelief, Japan has so far shown support for the strong line taken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who did not meet the hostage takers’ initial demands Jan. 20 for a $200 million ransom, pledging not to yield to terrorism.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, said in Amman that his country remains “as committed as ever” to the US-led military coalition against the Islamic State, despite heightened fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot held by the militant group, the Associated Press reported.

The fate of Goto and the Jordanian captive, First Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh, had been linked in an earlier Islamic State statement, but the new video made no mention of the pilot.

Abe on Sunday strongly condemned the murder and said Japan “will cooperate with the international community and make the terrorists pay the price.”

“I’m outraged by the despicable terrorist act, and I will never forgive the terrorists,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo.

For now, the Japanese public seems to be united in grief and a desire to show support for Abe and other leaders. However, political analysts have said that as the shock wears off, there will be more questioning of how Abe’s government handled the crisis, which began with the appearance online of a video from the militant group threatening the lives of two Japanese hostages, Goto and Haruna Yukawa.

In that first video, the group called the country’s pledge of $200 million to help shore up the government of Iraq and to assist refugees in Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon a “foolish decision” and called for a ransom of the same amount.

The group dropped the ransom demand after releasing a video online days later showing the decapitated body of Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer. The militants changed tack, offering to swap Goto for Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman on death row in Jordan for a deadly bombing there 10 years ago. This seemed to offer hope that a way would be found to secure Goto’s release.

Those hopes came crashing down over the weekend when the second video appeared.

The top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said Sunday the government had no reason to believe it was not real. He said Japan had had no contact with the militants, suggesting that the nation was relying almost entirely on Jordan to handle the fate of the hostages.

During the 10-day hostage standoff, Japan said it was trying to establish communication with the militants through local tribal and religious leaders, but apparently to no avail.

The gruesome images led to an outpouring of sympathy for Goto, 47, a veteran journalist who entered Islamic State-held territory in Syria in late October in a doomed effort to rescue Yukawa, who had been captured in August, Goto’s mother said.

Local television stations showed clips from Goto’s reports out of Syria, Iraq, and other conflict zones, where he often reported on the plight of children and other noncombatants.

“My son’s final act was to go to Syria to help a fellow Japanese,” Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, said Sunday. “Please understand his kindness and courage.”

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, said US authorities were working to confirm the authenticity of the video and called for the release of all remaining hostages.

A Jordanian government spokesman, Mohammad Momani, said Sunday that his country spared no effort to try to save the Japanese hostage’s life and was in continuous contact with the government of Japan during the negotiations.

The video of Goto’s killing came two days after a new deadline set by the group expired and the Jordanian government did not agree to its demand that Rishawi be freed.

Left unclear by the video, which was posted on a Twitter account associated with the Islamic State’s media organization, Al Furqan, was the fate of Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot, whom the extremists also threatened to kill if Jordan did not release Rishawi.

Jordan had agreed to release Rishawi only if the extremists provided proof that Kasasbeh was still alive. He was shot down over Syria on Dec. 24 during airstrikes on the Islamic State.

While there was widespread support in Jordan for a swap, officials insisted they needed to see evidence that he was still alive before they would release Rishawi, who was convicted for her role in a series of bombings of hotels in Amman that killed at least 57 people in 2005.

Momani’s statement also said that officials were continuing their efforts to free the pilot.

In the latest 67-second video from the militants, a black-masked extremist, who appeared to be the man known as Jihadi John because of his British-accented English, blamed Abe for Goto’s fate.

“To the Japanese government,” the man said, “you, like your foolish allies in the satanic coalition, have yet to understand that we by Allah’s grace are the Islamic caliphate, with authority and power. An entire army thirsty for your blood.”

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