Center for Strategic Communication


“Jihadi John” stands before Kenji Goto Jogo shortly before beheading him.

The Islamic State has beheaded the last of the Japanese hostages it was holding. Freelance journalist Kenji Goto Jogo was beheaded today by the infamous “Jihadi John” in a video released by the jihadist group.

Two weeks ago, the Islamic State gave an ultimatum to Japan. This demand included the payment of $200 million in return for sparing the lives of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. On Jan. 24, private contractor Yukawa was purported to have been beheaded by the group in an audio message also featuring Goto. After this release, the terrorist group changed its demands. Instead of a monetary ransom, it asked for the release of Sajida al Rishawi, a would-be female suicide bomber who failed to detonate in Jordan in 2005. Rishawi was tied to al Qaeda in Iraq and has been imprisoned in Jordan awaiting a death sentence since her failed plot.

Japan was said to have been negotiating for the release of Goto and a captured Jordanian pilot who was downed by the Islamic State in December. However, the negotiations reportedly became “deadlocked” according to the BBC. The video released today made no mention of the fate of the pilot.

The ultimatum and subsequent beheadings came after Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, pledged $2.5 billion in non-military aid for the Middle East, including $200 million for those fighting the Islamic State. [For more information on this, see LWJ report Islamic State gives ultimatum to Japan.]

Yukawa, who was captured by the Islamic State back in August, was allegedly a security contractor before going to Syria. In a video post to social media when Yukawa was initially captured, he claimed he was a photographer according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group. The other hostage, Goto, was a freelance journalist who has worked in various hotspots throughout the Middle East. His family lost contact with him in October and his wife reportedly received ransom demands of $8.5 million in November.

“Jihadi John” is the same Islamic State militant who beheaded James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Cawthorne Haines, Alan Henning, and Peter Kassig. He is believed to be a British citizen.