A Japanese journalist abducted by jihadists in Syria was captured as he ventured inside Islamic State-controlled territory to rescue the man he is now being held hostage with.
Freelance war correspondent Kenji Goto, 47, appeared kneeling in the desert in an orange jumpsuit alongside fellow hostage Haruna Yukawa, 45, in a video released by Islamic State (Isis) militants this week.
Between them in the footage is a knife-wielding black-clad militant who threatens to behead the pair if the Japanese government doesn't pay a $200m (£132m, €173m) ransom by tomorrow (23 January).
As the deadline approached, friends of the experienced reporter revealed he had travelled to Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa in October on a dangerous mission to rescue Yukawa, an eccentric self-styled security contractor, who had been kidnapped by the brutal Islamist group two months earlier.
Alaaeddin Al-Zaeem, a 34-year-old Syrian interpreter who had worked with Goto during his previous trips in the civil war-torn country, said he tried to talk the reporter out of the plan but to no avail.
Zaeem told Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun that the journalist also wanted to report the struggle of those living in IS-held areas, continuing on his life-long coverage of refugees and children in war zones.
The interpreter pulled out of the trip as he considered it too dangerous, accompanying Goto up to a town just outside IS territory.
Before parting, the journalist asked Zaeem to record a video message, in which the married father-of-three hinted he might possibly not make it back.
"I will go to Raqqa from now," Goto said in the video seen by The Asahi Shimbun. "It is said to be a stronghold of the Islamic State. It is very dangerous there, but no matter what happens, I will never hold a grudge against Syrians. I hope that this civil war will end as soon as possible."
A few days later contact with him was lost. He reappeared in the chilling video alongside Yukawa and a militant, believed to be "Jihadi John", the butcherer also seen in the execution videos of western hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Henning and Peter Kassig.
Goto had reportedly met Yukawa last year in Syria, shortly before the latter was taken hostage by IS. Their first meeting even came as the result of the journalist's effort to get his fellow countryman out of trouble.
Goto had been asked by rebels with the Free Syrian Army to act as a translator after they detained Yukawa, and wanted to interrogate him on the reasons of his presence in the conflict zone.
Yukawa was an aspiring "military contractor" described by media more as a thriller-seeker who set off to Syria after going bankrupt, losing his wife to cancer and attempting suicide.
Goto secured his release and the two became friends. His second mission to save him failed.
Yoshihide Suga, a spokesman for the Japanese government, said they were trying all possible ways to reach those holding the two hostages and secure their release.