Tokyo: Appalled and saddened by news of journalist Kenji Goto's purported beheading by Islamic State extremists, Japan on Sunday ordered heightened security precautions and said it would persist with its non-military support for fighting terrorism.
The failure to save Goto raised fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot also held by the militant group that controls about a third of both Syria and Iraq.
Unlike some earlier messages delivered in the crisis, the video that circulated online late yesterday purporting to show a militant beheading Goto did not mention the pilot.
Jordan renewed an offer today to swap an al-Qaida prisoner for the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who was seized after his F-16 crashed near the Islamic State group's de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria, in December.
Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told The Associated Press that "we are still ready to hand over" Sajida al-Rishawi, who faces death by hanging for her role in triple hotel bombings in Jordan in 2005.
Al-Momani also said his country spared no effort to free Goto. The slaying of Goto, a freelance reporter whose work focused on refugees, children and other victims of war, shocked this country, which until now had not become directly embroiled in the fight against the militants.
"I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after convening an emergency Cabinet meeting.
"When I think of the grief of his family, I am left speechless," he said. "We are filled with deep regret." Threats from the Islamic State group prompted an order for tighter security at airports and at Japanese facilities overseas, such as embassies and schools, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said.
He said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the status of the Jordanian pilot.
With no updates for days, al-Kaseasbeh's family appealed to the government for information on his situation. But for Goto's family and friends, the beheading shattered any hopes for his rescue.
"Kenji has died, and my heart is broken. Facing such a tragic death, I'm just speechless," Goto's mother Junko Ishido told reporters.
"I was hoping Kenji might be able to come home," said Goto's brother, Junichi Goto, in a separate interview. "I was hoping he would return and thank everyone for his rescue, but that's impossible, and I'm bitterly disappointed."
According to his friends and family, Goto travelled to Syria in late October to try to save Haruna Yukawa, 42, who was taken hostage in August and who was shown as purportedly killed in an earlier video.