ISIS Demands Prisoner Swap after Beheading Japanese Hostage

ISIS Demands Prisoner Swap after Beheading Japanese Hostage
Sun Jan 25, 2015 08:32:49

ISIS militants changed tactics after allegedly killing a Japanese citizen, seeking a prisoner exchange for its remaining Japanese hostage as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his nation won't yield to terrorists.

A video was released purportedly showing Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, a 47-year-old war correspondent, appearing to hold a picture of his beheaded countryman, Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old self-styled military contractor, Sunday Times reports.

In the audio portion, the voice of a man claiming to be Goto pleaded in English for his life and asked for the release of a woman jailed in Jordan on accusations of attempting to take part in a suicide bombing.

Yukawa was killed after Japan failed to pay a US$200 million ransom by the ISIS militants' deadline. The prisoner whom the captors now want released is Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who was arrested after she tried to detonate an explosive belt at a wedding party at the Radisson Hotel in Amman in 2005.

Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, a 47-year-old war correspondent, appearing to hold a picture of his beheaded countryman, Haruna Yukawa, a 42-year-old self-styled military contractor.

"They no longer want money. So, you don't need to worry about funding terrorists," Goto said in the message, which is addressed to his wife.

"They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi. It is simple. You give them Sajida and I will be released."

A deal is unlikely since it would involve a public concession to the militant group and strain relations with the US, a key economic and defence ally for Japan and Jordan.

ISIS sought to punish the Japanese government after Abe pledged US$200 million in aid to help refugees and displaced people due to the conflict in Syria and Iraq, setting the ransom at the same amount.

The group set a 72-hour deadline in a Jan 20 video that showed the two men kneeling before a knife-wielding militant.

Japanese hostages Kenji Goto (L) and Haruna Yukawa (R) in orange jumpsuits with a black-clad militant brandishing a knife as he addresses the camera in English

The lives of the two Japanese hostages became intertwined when they met in Syria after Yukawa travelled there for the first time last year. Goto, a war correspondent for two decades, had reported from conflict zones across the Middle East and Africa.

He returned to Syria in July and was captured by ISIS within weeks of his arrival. The group released a video in August showing a bloodied Yukawa being interrogated.

His capture prompted Goto, a devout Christian, to head to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo seeking his release, according to Kyodo news agency. Goto ended up a hostage facing the same death sentence, after leaving a video message in which he said his fate was his own responsibility.

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