Islamic State militants threaten to kill 2 Japanese captives

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TOKYO. KAZINFORM - A man claiming to be a member of the Islamic State militant group threatened in a video Tuesday to kill two Japanese captives unless a ransom of $200 million (23.6 billion yen) is paid.

The amount demanded is the same as that pledged by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a speech on Saturday as part of Tokyo's contribution to anti-Islamic State efforts, including extending support to refugees from Iraq and Syria. In the video uploaded to the YouTube video-hosting site, the man, wielding a knife, threatened to kill the Japanese hostages, identified as Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, within 72 hours. The militant dressed in black stood in between the two hostages kneeling on the ground. "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," the man said. "You have proudly donated 100 million (dollars) to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims," the man said, giving a ransom amount of 100 million each for the hostages. At a press conference in Jerusalem during a current trip to the Middle East, Abe said the Japanese government is still trying to verify the authenticity of the video, but Tokyo will make utmost efforts to secure their release unharmed. "The international community needs to cooperate and take action without yielding to terrorism," Abe said. Denouncing the group's action as "unforgivable," he called for the two men to be freed immediately and said Japan will prioritize the safety of the hostages. The prime minister also said Japan's nonmilitary support is "unwavering" and the aid plan for refugees in the region will proceed as planned. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is visiting Brussels, told reporters that Japan plans to ask Britain and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for help in providing information related to the hostage-taking incident. In Tokyo, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference that Japan has decided to send Yasuhide Nakayama, one of the senior vice foreign ministers who is accompanying Abe on his trip to the Middle East, to the Jordanian capital Amman to handle the situation. Asked about the government's response to the ransom demand, the chief Cabinet secretary, said, "We are undecided since we are still trying to verify the information." In a message to the Japanese public, the militant said, "You now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise decision by paying the 200 million to save the lives of your citizens." The prime minister's office has set up a task force to deal with the situation, while the National Police Agency has decided to send members of its international terrorism unit to Amman. A senior official of the agency said the threat could not have come "at the worst time," with Abe currently visiting the Middle East and having pledged financial support. Yukawa, 42, from Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo, is believed to have been captured in Marea, about 30 kilometers north of Aleppo, on Aug. 14, 2014, by the Islamic State group when he was traveling with rebel fighters including of the rival Islamic Front. A video clip posted on YouTube last year showed a man lying on his back on the ground with blood trickling down his face being questioned in English, at one point at knifepoint. He identified himself as Haruna Yukawa and said he was from Japan. Yukawa, who is known to have been traveling to countries such as Syria and Iraq for business purposes, was repeatedly asked why he was carrying a gun and if he was a soldier. He said he was "no soldier" and that he was "half journalist, half doctor." Goto, 47, a freelance journalist from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture and an acquaintance of Yukawa, went missing in October after he left for civil war-torn Syria. He worked for a TV production company before becoming a freelance journalist, covering conflict zones and poverty in the Middle East and Africa with a video camera. In recent years, Goto has frequently traveled to Syria and Iraq and provided footage for television. The Islamic State group has been involved in the beheading of foreign hostages. Source: Kyodo

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