UN council condemns 'heinous' murder of Japanese journalist by ISIS

An Islamic State fighter stands next to a man kneeling on the ground purported to be Japanese journalist Kenji Goto in an unknown location in this still image from a video released by Islamic State on Jan 31, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An Islamic State fighter stands next to a man kneeling on the ground purported to be Japanese journalist Kenji Goto in an unknown location in this still image from a video released by Islamic State on Jan 31, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United Nations Security Council on Sunday condemned the "heinous and cowardly" murder of a Japanese journalist, after Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants claimed his beheading.

"This crime is, yet again, a tragic reminder of the increasing dangers journalists and others face every day in Syria," the 15-member body said in a statement.

The Security Council said it "deplored" the apparent killing of Mr Kenji Goto, and "strongly condemned this heinous and cowardly murder".

"Those responsible for the killing of Kenji Goto shall be held accountable," the Security Council stressed, with member states emphasising that such acts would "not intimidate them but rather stiffen their resolve".

ISIS, also known by the acronym ISIL, on Saturday claimed the 47-year-old journalist's death in the second purported beheading of a Japanese hostage in a week.

In the video, Mr Goto is seen kneeling next to a standing masked man who speaks with a British accent and blames the Japanese government for his "slaughter".

The execution came as Jordan scrambled to save captured pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, whom ISIS said it would free in exchange for an Iraqi militant on death row in Jordan.

Amman said it would hand the woman over if given proof that Mr Kassasbeh is still alive.

The Security Council demanded "the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all those who are kept hostage" by ISIS and other Al-Qaeda affiliates, while sending its "deep sympathy and condolences to the family of the victim, to the government of Japan, as well as to the families of all victims of ISIL".

Mr Goto was beheaded after the group claimed the killing of self-described contractor Haruna Yukawa last week, after the expiration of a 72-hour deadline during which the fighters had asked Tokyo to pay a US$200 million (S$266 million) ransom.

The militant group has imposed a brutal version of Islamic law in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.

It has murdered both locals and foreigners, including two US journalists, an American aid worker and two British aid workers.