ISIS Murders One Japanese Hostage

Abe Shinzo at a press conference

Japanese Prime Minister Abe speaking to reporters; photo courtesy of

ISIS Murders One Japanese Hostage
| published January 25, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has apparently murdered another hostage, outraging the country of Japan and stoking the ire of scores of other nations.

Speaking at a crowded press conference on Sunday, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe characterized the beheading of Marman Yukawa as “an act of terrorism…outrageous and impermissible” in a civilized world. Abe, angry and defiant, also called for the release of a second Japanese man being held captive by the ISIS militants.

ISIS has murdered tens of thousands since its military advance began last year, but it has taken great care in making a spectacle of its killings of foreigners, including American journalists and British air workers who were kidnapped or caught in northern Syria or Iraq. Earlier in January, ISIS has released video footage showing two Japanese men in the group’s custody, and the man in the video said that ISIS demanded $200 million from the government of Japan in exchange for the release of the two hostages. ISIS had given the Japanese government a deadline of this weekend to comply.

One Japanese citizen remains in ISIS custody—journalist Kenji Goto, who had travelled to Syria and Turkey to report on humanitarian conditions and to file reports in the Japanese press on the war effort between rebels and the militants. Abe told reporters at the press conference that he was placing the highest priority on the release of Kenji Goto, though he did not elaborate on what steps the government was taking at this time.

Last week, Abe cut short his high-profile six-day tour of the Middle East, dispatching a top foreign ministry official and ministry negotiators to Amman, Jordan. Abe returned to immediately Japan. The prime minister had been leading a delegation of about 100 Japanese officials and business leaders on a tour of a dozen countries when the hostage crisis unfolded.

ISIS’s demands for cash in exchange for the release of the hostages appeared to have been in response to Abe’s publicly-stated commitment to support the fight against radical Islam and terrorism by providing money, materials and intelligence—as well as international solidarity with those countries engaged in the fight against the militant army. ISIS had released another in its now infamous series of videos in which a black-clad, shrouded militant—speaking in a London accent—threatened to behead one or both of the hostages if certain demands were not immediately met. ISIS has a grim track record of following through on its video demands when hostages are involved.

Japan is purportedly working closely with both Jordan’s King Abdullah and other leaders of Arab states in the Middle East to secure a negotiated settlement for the release of the remaining hostage. One option has been the release of a top ISIS militant, Sajida al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto, but there has been only modest progress on that potential trade. Another solution would be to pay the ransom demanded in exchange for Goto’s release, but it is not clear that the Japanese government would want to bargain with ISIS. Besides, a new video shows Goto explaining Yukaka’s death as retribution for Japan having not paid the original ransom. In the new video Goto says that the only remaining option is to trade al-Rishawi for for himself.

In Washington, both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry released statements condemning the murder of Yukawa.

“The United States strongly condemns the brutal murder of Japanese citizen Haruna Yukawa by the terrorist group ISIL,” the White House statement said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also issued a statement regarding this latest act of brutality by ISIS.

“ISIL’s inhumanity stands in sharp contrast to the generous humanitarian aid Japan has provided to the Iraqi and Syrian people in recent months,” Hagel said in his statement released by the Department of Defense late Saturday evening, “and [ISIL’s] continued barbarism only serves to strengthen our global coalition’s shared resolve to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

Related Thursday Review articles:

Crisis Over Japanese Hostages Heightens; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; January 21, 2015.

ISIS Threatens Japanese Hostages; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; January 20, 2015.