US president Barack Obama has led worldwide condemnation of the killing of a Japanese journalist by Islamic State (IS) militants, calling it a “heinous murder”.
He said the United States stood in solidarity with the Japanese people in denouncing the “barbaric act”.
An online video released yesterday purports to show the beheading of Kenji Goto. The White House said that while it was not confirming the authenticity of the video itself, it confirmed that Mr Goto, 47, had been killed.
Mr Goto was captured in October while in Syria trying to win the release of a colleague who was reportedly killed earlier this month.
In his statement, Mr Obama called Mr Goto courageous and said the US applauded Japan’s steadfast commitment to advancing peace and prosperity in the Middle East as well as around the world.
He praised Mr Goto’s reporting, saying the freelance “courageously sought to convey the plight of the Syrian people to the outside world”.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he condemned “what appears to be the despicable and appalling murder of Kenji Goto”. He said: “It is a reminder that Isil is the embodiment of evil, with no regard for human life.”
The video, posted on militant websites, ended days of negotiations to save the man and heightened fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot also held hostage.
Japan reacted with outrage and horror. “I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism,” prime minister Shinzo Abe said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
“When I think of the grief of his family, I am left speechless. The government has been doing its utmost in responding to win his release and we are filled with deep regret.”
He vowed that Japan would not give in to terrorism and would continue to provide humanitarian aid to countries fighting the IS extremists.
Mr Goto’s brother Junichi told broadcaster NHK TV: “I was hoping Kenji would come back alive to thank everyone who had supported him. I am filled with sadness he couldn’t do it.”
Mr Goto’s mother Junko Ishido said her son’s death showed he was a kind, gentle man, trying to save another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, who was shown as purportedly killed in an earlier video.
The fates of Mr Goto and the Jordanian pilot Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh, had been linked by the militants, but yesterday’s video made no mention of the airman. Jordan’s government spokesman, Mohammed al-Momani, declined to comment. Earlier this week, Jordan had offered to free an al-Qaida prisoner for the pilot, but a swap never moved forward.
Nigerian troops have repelled Islamist extremists who attacked from four fronts on Maiduguri, the biggest city in north-east Nigeria, with several civilians killed by aerial bombs and grenades and mortar shells on the ground.