Mr Yukawa's murder appears genuine, says Abe

Mr Yukawa's murder appears genuine, says Abe
A protester holding a placard chants "Save Kenji" during a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's Official residence in Tokyo, January 25, 2015.

TOKYO - The father of Haruna Yukawa, one of the two Japanese nationals taken hostage by a group believed to be the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), expressed regret yesterday morning over the news that his son was likely killed by the extremist group.

"So the worst has finally come. I'm filled with feelings of regret," lamented a distraught Shoichi Yukawa, 74, to reporters at his home in Chiba.

"I went totally blank, I was only sorry...I had no words to say."

The apparent announcement of self-styled military contractor Haruna Yukawa, 42, came days after the ISIS published a video in which it threatened to kill him and freelance journalist Kenji Goto, 47, unless Japan paid a US$200 million (S$269 million) ransom within 72 hours.

That deadline passed on Friday, with Tokyo saying it was still making frantic efforts to contact the extremists.

On late Saturday, a three-minute video was released showing a still image of Mr Goto holding a photograph of a decapitated body said to be Mr Yukawa.

In the accompanying audio recording, a man claiming to be Mr Goto blames Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for Mr Yukawa's killing, and demands the release of an Iraqi woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, sentenced to death in Jordan for her part in multiple bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people.

Mr Shoichi Yukawa said the Foreign Ministry informed him shortly after midnight yesterday that Mr Yukawa apparently had been killed, though the ministry said the information had not yet been confirmed.

Mr Abe, speaking to public broadcaster NHK yesterday, said that chances were high that a recording and an image of what appeared to be Mr Yukawa's body were authentic.

Mr Shoichi Yukawa said Mr Goto "went there out of concern for Haruna".

"It pains me to think that (Mr Goto) is now held captive. I hope for his early release, for him to return to Japan as soon as possible," he added.

"I feel sorry for all the trouble this has caused. I'd like to express my appreciation to the efforts made by the government and others involved."

The father said his son had felt as if Mr Goto was his "big brother".

"My son told me all the time that he is a sincere, very courageous and gentle man," he said, adding that it pained him that Mr Goto "worried about Haruna, went there and risked his own life and then was kidnapped and threatened this way".

"I had been hoping something like this wouldn't happen, but it finally did.

"If I could see him again, I would hug him with all my strength," he said.

Meanwhile, the mother of Mr Goto intently watched TV news reports at her home in Tokyo early yesterday morning about the possible murder of her son's fellow hostage.

Junko Ishido, 78, answered questions from reporters, but did not seem to understand the situation very well.

As she watched a TV image of a man believed to be Mr Goto, she just said, "(He) is thin."

She added, as if praying for her son's safety: "I'm just stunned. I can't believe this is real. I just believe that Kenji will come back soon. I suppose he feels the threat to his life is much more serious than I can tell you (reporters). I can see the tension in his face."

Speaking to NHK, she said: "What I want to tell ISIS is that Kenji's ideal is world peace." She was later quoted by Kyodo news agency as doubting her son would seek a prisoner exchange.

Ms Ishido's 78-year-old husband said, as if he was talking to himself: "I guess it (ISIS) is trying to upset us. We can't believe it (the video)."

About 200 people took part in a demonstration in which protesters also held up signs with the words "I Am Kenji" and chanted "Save Kenji" in front of Mr Abe's official residence in Tokyo yesterday.

Mr Abe declined to comment on whether he would ask Amman to release Sajida whom ISIS wants in exchange for Mr Goto.

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