Kenji Goto Dead: Beheaded by ISIS in Video on Saturday, Reports Say

January 31, 2015 3:21 pm Last Updated: January 31, 2015 10:19 pm

Kenji Goto, the Japanese journalist captured in Syria, was purportedly beheaded in a new video from ISIS, or the Islamic State.

The terror organization had threatened to kill Goto earlier this week unless Japan agreed to its demands.

A video of Goto’s killing was leaked on Saturday but it’s unclear when the video was filmed.

Goto, 47, leaves behind his wife and three children.

FILE - This file image taken from an online video purportedly released by the Islamic State group's al-Furqan media arm on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, but lacks their logo, purports to show the group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages that the militants identify as Kenji Goto, left, and Haruna Yukawa, right, unless a $200 million ransom is paid within 72 hours. Far from the high-tech, slickly edited videos involving beheaded Western hostages through which the group impressed supporters and terrorized opponents, recent messages purporting to be from Japanese hostage Kenji Goto have been through digitized, audio dispatches featuring either still photos or text. Experts who examined this video said it was more likely filmed in an indoor studio with a false backdrop. (AP Photo, File)
This file image taken from an online video purportedly released by the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media arm on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, but lacks their logo. (AP Photo, File)

The video, released on militant websites, heightened fears for the life of a Jordanian pilot whose fate had been linked to that of Goto. Earlier this week, Jordan had offered to free an al-Qaida prisoner for the pilot, but a swap never moved forward.

Jordan’s government spokesman, Mohammed al-Momani, declined comment late Saturday on the video of Goto’s purported beheading.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the Cabinet was convening an emergency meeting and was rushing to confirm the authenticity of the online video.

Suga described the online video as a ‘deplorable terrorist act.”

Protesters chant "Free Goto" during a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's Official residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. The plight of freelance journalist Kenji Goto, taken captive by Islamic State group militants, has gripped Japan, and the people's hopes for his safety are now on Facebook with a simple, unifying plea:
Protesters chant “Free Goto” during a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s Official residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The video, highlighted by militant sympathizers on social media sites, bore the symbol of the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media arm.

Though the video could not be immediately independently verified by The Associated Press, it conformed to other beheading videos released by the extremists, who now control about a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in a self-declared caliphate. 

In this Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 photo, Kurdish Peshmerga walk to the frontline in Shandoukhah, northern Iraq. The Iraqi Kurdish fighters retaking territory from Islamic State militants have found surprising ambivalence in areas they free from the jihadis' oppressive rule. Locals have swiftly shaken off the imposed Islamic lifestyle _ but as Sunnis, from the same ethnic group as the militants, many are bracing for treatment as collaborators nonetheless. An AP team traveling with the Kurds found the road to Mosul, a coveted prize in the battle for Iraq, strewn with suspicion and fear. (AP Photo/Vivian Salama)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 photo, Kurdish Peshmerga walk to the frontline in Shandoukhah, northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Vivian Salama)

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a media watchdog group, has described him as “courageous” and a hero.

Here’s what it said about him:

Since founding his news agency, Independent Press, in 1996, he has covered conflict in Chechnya, Albania, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, among other places. As a freelancer, he funds many of these trips himself. In Japan, there is an almost tribal loyalty between TV networks and their staff, but Goto has won the respect of the networks by visiting places they are reluctant to send their correspondents to. His documentaries regularly air on NHK, Japan’s national network, TV Asahi and others. But he would insist on taking responsibility for his own safety so they would not be blamed if he came to any harm. His friends think that was the point of his last video, recorded on October 25, before his kidnap, in which he said he took full responsibility for his actions.

Goto has experienced the full horror of war. In Liberia, friends recall, he talked about seeing hundreds of bodies being bulldozed into a grave the size of a swimming pool. In Iraq, he said a soldier put a gun to his head. But he has sought to draw out lessons from his reporting that are uplifting, especially for children. His DVD and book, Welcome to Our School, brought out by NHK in 2003, featured children in countries including Iraq and Afghanistan introducing their schools, even those closed by conflict, and talking about their love of learning. He has also written books about AIDS, child soldiers in Sierra Leone, genocide in Rwanda, and schoolgirls in Afghanistan. On visits to schools, he has told children in Japan how privileged they are that school is such a “normal” part of life.

With The Associated Press.