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The Japanese government condemned the purported beheading of a second of its citizens by the Islamist terror group ISIS, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying he was "left speechless" and vowing, "Japan will never succumb to terrorism." President Barack Obama called the apparent killing of Kenji Goto "heinous."
"Considering the agony of the families. I am left speechless," Abe said. “The government has done everything in its power, but I cannot but feel the deepest regret … We will never forgive the terrorists. To punish them for this crime, we will unite with the international community."
Goto's wife, Rinko, released a statement on Sunday saying: "My family and I are devastated by the news of Kenji's death. He was not just my loving husband and father to our two beautiful children, but a son, brother and friend to many around the world."
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She added, "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."
The terror group released a video Saturday that purports to show the execution of Goto, 47. His apparent murder comes seven days after ISIS claimed it beheaded another Japanese captive, Haruna Yukawa, and two days after a new deadline set by the group for the release of would-be suicide bomber jailed in Jordan had passed.
While efforts are still underway to authenticate the video, Japan's government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo believes there is a "high" probability the footage is authentic.
He said the government learned about the video through Twitter, calling the development "extremely unfortunate and anguishing" and adding that he was unsure if Goto's purported execution was the result of a breakdown in hostage-swap negotiations involving Jordan.
"We cannot suppress the extreme anger that such an immoral and despicable terrorist act was repeated again," said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Goto was captured after he reportedly went to Syria to search for Yukawa, who was taken hostage last summer. Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido said of her son: "He went to save his fellow countryman. Please understand his bravery and kindness."
"Kenji is gone now. It’s such a heartbreaking death, I can't find any words. Tears just keep welling up in my eyes," Ishido told reporters Sunday. Goto’s brother thanked the government for its efforts to secure his release. "But the fact that it ended this way, as his brother I feel great regret," he told Japanese broadcaster NHK.
"A reminder that ISIL is the embodiment of evil"
ISIS first threatened to kill Goto and Yukawa unless they were paid $200 million, and gave the Japanese government 72 hours to comply. After that deadline passed the group claimed it had killed Yukawa, but switched its demand to the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber imprisoned in Jordan after a 2005 attack in the capital city of Amman. The terror group later threatened to also execute a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, 1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kasaesbeh, if al-Rishawi was not freed.
The fate of the pilot, captured after his jet crashed in Syria in December, was not mentioned in the new video.
Obama called the apparent execution of Goto a "heinous murder." "Our thoughts are with Mr. Goto's family and loved ones, and we stand today in solidarity with Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese people in denouncing this barbaric act," Obama said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the purported killing a "despicable and appalling murder."
"It is a reminder that ISIL is the embodiment of evil," Cameron said in a message on Twitter, referring to another name by with ISIS is known.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "The barbaric killing of Kenji Goto, and of Haruna Yukawa before him, shows again ISIL's brutality and extremist agenda."
The release of the new video comes on the same day that the U.S. military announced that Kurdish ground forces have pushed ISIS out of the Syrian border town of Kobani, with the help of an extensive U.S.-led air campaign that has conducted more than 700 air strikes against ISIS in and around the city since Aug. 8.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the apparent deaths of Goto and Yukawa “reminds the world of the threat we confront in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while it reinforces our global coalition's commitment to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”