A video message released Saturday by Islamic State militants claimed the terrorists killed one of the two Japanese hostages being held in Syria.
Japanese officials said they were investigating the alleged message from ISIS that claimed one hostage had been slaughtered and demanded a prisoner exchange for the other.
A 72-hour deadline and a request for $200 million set earlier in the week by the extremist group expired Friday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the new message, which was quickly deleted after being posted on YouTube, “an outrageous and unforgivable act.”
The short video featured an audio recording of kidnapped journalist Kenji Goto claiming that his fellow captive Haruna Yukawa had been killed.
“We feel strong indignation, and vehemently condemn the act,”Abe said.
The Jordanian prisoner the terrorists want released is Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who attempted blow herself up at a wedding party at a Radisson Hotel in Amman in 2005.
Kyodo News agency reported that the video had been emailed to the wife of one of the hostages.
President Obama, en route to India, condemned the “brutal murder” in a statement and offered his support in the wake of the frightening message.
“Our condolences today are with the people of Japan for their terrible loss,” Obama said in the statement.
There were no other details about the death.
ISIS released a video on Tuesday featuring both 47-year-old Goto and Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer wearing orange jumpsuits next to a hooded gunman.
The militant in the video threatened to behead both captives if the $200 million ransom was not met.
Japanese officials said they have faced trouble reaching the militants due to diplomats leaving Syria as the country was torn apart by civil war. ISIS militants now control large swathes of the war-torn country as well as major areas in neighboring Iraq.
“Time is running out,” Goto’s mother Junko Ishido pleaded. “Please, Japanese government, save my son’s life.”
Ishido said she was told by her daughter-in-law that Goto had left for Syria less than two weeks after his child was born in October to try to rescue Yukawa.
Japanese officials have refused to say whether they had considered paying the ransom.
The country is a member of the Group of Seven nations opposed to negotiating ransom payments with terrorists.
“America has known this pain and horror ourselves, and we stand with Japan not just in sadness, but in solidarity and strength,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “We grieve with Haruna Yukawa’s family and loved ones, and with all the people of Japan.”
With News Wire Services