The militant group Islamic State has threatened to kill two Japanese captives unless it received US$200 million in ransom, according to an online video it released on Tuesday.
A black-clad figure with a knife, standing in a barren landscape along with two kneeling men wearing orange clothing, gave Japan 72 hours to stop its “foolish” support for the United States-led coalition waging a military campaign against the group, Reuters reported.
“To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,500 kilometers away from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” said the militant, who spoke in English.
The video footage, which was undated, identified the men as Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Cairo last Saturday and pledged around US$200 million in non-military assistance for countries battling Islamic State.
Abe, speaking in Jerusalem on Tuesday near the end of a six-day tour of the Middle East, said Islamic State’s threat against the two purported captives was “unacceptable”.
“Extremism and Islam are completely different things,” Abe said. “We strongly demand the immediate release of the Japanese citizens unharmed … The international community needs to respond firmly and cooperate without caving into terrorism.”
This appears to be the first time that an Islamic State video specifically demanded cash for captives, the news agency said.
Abe stressed that Japan’s aid announced on his trip was for humanitarian purposes, and said Tokyo would keep contributing to peace and prosperity in the region.
“We’ll coordinate with the international community from now on, and contribute more to [the] peace and prosperity of the region. This policy is unwavering and we won’t change this policy.”
Asked whether Japan would pay ransom to secure the captives’ release, Abe replied: “With regard to this case, we attach the utmost priority to saving lives, and gathering information with the help of other countries.”
Goto is a freelance reporter who was based in Tokyo. He has written books on AIDS and children in war zones from Afghanistan to Africa and reported for news broadcasters in Japan.
Goto met Yukawa last year and helped him travel to Iraq in June, he told Reuters in August.
Yukawa, 43, traveled to Iraq and Syria last year after telling friends and family that he thought it represented a last chance to turn his life around.
Over the previous decade, he had lost a business to bankruptcy, lost his wife to cancer and become homeless, according to his father and an online journal.
It was not clear what exactly he was doing in the region.
The militant in the footage, who spoke with a British accent, appeared to have the same voice as a jihadist shown with captives in previous Islamic State videos, the report said.
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