Kenji Goto is a 47-year-old freelance journalist and producer who was known in the field for years, but his recent capture by the Islamic State group has thrust him into the public eye for far more grave reasons than his journalism. Islamic State militants threatened to kill Goto and Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh if a female terrorist wasn't released from a Jordanian prison.
He's become the latest Islamic State prisoner to be used as a mouthpiece to announce hostage demands for the extremist group. A voice recording was released Wednesday night of a man claiming to be Goto, saying that al-Kasaesbeh will be executed by sunset in Mosul, Iraq, on Thursday if 44-year-old al Qaeda militant Sajida al-Rishawi isn't ready “for exchange for my life.” It's unclear if the wording of the message means that Goto too is in danger at sundown, which will be around 5:30 p.m. local time, or 9:30 a.m. EST, according to timeanddate.com.
The video hasn't been confirmed by U.S. authorities. Rita Katz at SITE, a monitoring group that watches jihadist activity, called it “rushed.” Goto said in a video released Wednesday that he and al-Kasaesbeh would be killed within 24 hours if al-Rishawi wasn't released. Goto held up a photo of what appeared to be the decapitated body of fellow Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa, 42, who Goto was attempting to find when he was captured.
â€” Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) January 28, 2015
Goto was a veteran of conflict journalism and had reported from Jordan, Afghanistan and Iraq. He allowed Yukawa to travel with him on a trip to Iraq from Syria in June 2014 because Yukawa wanted to learn how to survive in a war-torn region. Yukawa was captured in the fall and Goto felt he had some responsibility for him, so returned to search for him, according to Reuters.
Goto has three children, the youngest was born in October 2014. He's a faithful Christian and said in a May article for Christian Today that “I know that somehow God will always save me,” when he's out in dangerous situations.
While the authenticity of the latest audio message of Goto is unconfirmed, the Jordanian government said it was willing to negotiate a release for 26-year-old al-Kasaesbeh. Japan is working with the Jordanian government to secure a release for Goto as well, according to PBS. It's believed that the Islamic State group has shifted its focus to al-Kasaesbeh because of the unpopularity of Jordan’s involvement against the militant group and the tough political spot a threat on his life would cause for Jordan’s government.