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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, July 16, 2018

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Islamic State demands $200 mn for freeing Japanese hostages

Japan is not among the United States allies

Share on Facebook January 20, 2015, Reporter : BigNewsNet, Reader : 596

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BEIRUT, Lebanon - The Islamic State has threatened to kill two Japanese in their captivity unless the ragtag army of Islamists controlling large areas of Iraq and Syria is paid $200 million in ransom, according to a video released Tuesday.

The video was released two days after Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to give some $200 million in non-military aid for countries battling the Islamic State. Japan is not among the United States allies in its military campaign against the Islamist group.

The video shows a masked man giving the Japanese government a choice to pay the same amount to the group in ransom and free the Japanese hostages, identified as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.

It shows the masked man clad in black and standing between the two hostages in orange jumpsuits. The man speaking on behalf of the Islamic State resembles an extremist featured prominently in previous hostage videos. He was dubbed "Jihadi John" by the British media.

The deal to set free the Japanese hostages holds for 72 hours after the video was released on Tuesday. This means that the Japan government has until Friday to decide about the Islamic State demand.

"To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,500 kilometers away from the Islamic State, you willingly volunteered to take part in this crusade," the masked man with British accent says in the video, addressing his comments to Abe.

"To the Japanese public, just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, 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."

Shortly after the video was released, Abe called for the immediate release of the hostages and vowed to save them.

"I strongly demand that they not be harmed and that they be immediately released," said Abe, speaking through a translator, told journalists in Jerusalem, where he was wrapping up a six-day Middle East tour.

Asked whether the Japan government would pay ransom to secure the release of hostages, Abe said: "With regard to this case, we attach the utmost priority to saving lives, and gathering information with the help of other countries."

"We will make all possible efforts to release our citizens as quickly as possible. Their lives are the top priority."

One of the hostages, Goto is said to be a freelance journalist while Yukawa was described in media as an adventurer and self-styled security consultant.

Goto has written books on AIDS and children in war zones from Afghanistan to Africa and reported for news broadcasters in Japan.

According to Reuters, Goto met Yukawa last year and helped him travel to Iraq in June. Yukawa, 43, travelled to Iraq and Syria last year after telling friends and family that he thought it represented a last chance to turn his life around.

He had earlier lost a business due to bankruptcy and became homeless. His wife died of cancer, according to his father and an online journal.

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