ISIS has reportedly executed one of the two Japanese hostages after a ransom deadline passed, but a new mystery is growing over the location of the video showing the two men.
A video released this week showed the two hostages kneeling in what appeared to be a sun-drenched desert, with a masked militant standing above them. But new doubts have been raised about the video, with some experts saying it appears to have been filmed indoors in front of a green screen.
Less than 24 hours after the deadline passed for the Japanese hostages, reports emerged that one of them had been killed. The video, circulating on many ISIS-aligned websites, show Kenji Goto, one of the Japanese hostages, claiming that his companion, identified as Haruna Yukawa, was executed by the ISIS.
Goto held up a picture he claimed was the beheaded body of Yukawa, saying that ISIS is now seeking the release of an female captive imprisoned in Jordan.
"This is an outrageous and unacceptable act," said Yoshihide Suga, a Japanese government spokesman. "We strongly demand the prompt release of the remaining Mr. Kenji Goto, without harm."
But the ransom video itself could give clues to the location of ISIS. Veryan Khan, editorial director for the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, said the video shows light from two different directions, indicating that it was taken in a studio with electric lighting, as opposed to outside in the sun.
"The hostages are visibly bothered by" the bright light, she said.
Khan adds that the jumpsuit from one of the hostages appeared to flutter in the breeze, but on closer inspection, it appears to have been from a fan. The video's sound also lacks the interference that would have been expected from an open desert.
Experts believe the video could give clues to the location of ISIS and the constraints now placed on the militant group.
The Associated Press noted, "If it was actually done inside, it could indicate the hostage holders are less free to move about than the Islamic state group would have its enemies believe. It could also be a way for the hostage-takers to further cover their tracks and not give experts any reliable signals to indicate where they are."
If the ISIS hostage video is faked, it could show that the U.S.-led airstrikes are putting the militant group on the run. In the past, sources claimed that the coalition forces were narrowing down the location where the videotaped beheadings were taking place, with a target on the executioner known as Jihadi John.