Japan condemns 'despicable' IS hostage beheading claim

Tokyo: World leaders reacted with outrage today after Islamic State militants announced they had beheaded a second Japanese hostage, as Jordan vowed to do all it could to save a captured airman.

IS claimed in a video released online that it had killed 47-year-old journalist Kenji Goto, the second purported beheading of a Japanese hostage in a week but made no mention of the Jordanian pilot it had also threatened to kill. Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe condemned the "heinous and despicable terrorist acts" and said that "Japan will never yield to terrorism."

"We will never forgive terrorists. We will cooperate with the international community to make them atone for their crimes," Abe told reporters in Tokyo, appearing to fight back tears as he spoke. Jordan's King Abdullah II denounced Goto's murder as a "cowardly, criminal act" and said every effort was being made "to seek the release of the hero pilot Maaz Kassasbeh", captured after his F-16 plane crashed in Syria in December.

IS has been demanding the release of an Iraqi jihadist on death row in Jordan in exchange for Kassasbeh's life, and Amman said it would hand her over if given proof he is still alive. The video shows Goto, a respected war correspondent, wearing an orange outfit similar to those worn by Guantanamo Bay inmates, kneeling next to a standing man dressed head-to-toe in black with his face covered.

The man, who speaks with a British accent, appears to be the same IS militant who has featured in previous videos showing the execution of Western hostages. He addresses Abe, saying the killing was the result of Tokyo's "reckless" decisions, a possible reference to aid it has granted for refugees fleeing IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq and would mark the beginning of a "nightmare for Japan".

The brief video, whose content has not been verified but whose authenticity Tokyo said was "highly probable", ends with the image of a body and a decapitated head on top of it. In a statement, Goto's wife Rinko said she was "devastated" at the news. "While feeling a great personal loss, I remain extremely proud of my husband who reported the plight of people in conflict areas like Iraq, Somalia and Syria," she said.

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