The Islamic State group threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless they receive $200 million in 72 hours, directly demanding the ransom Tuesday from Japan’s premier during his visit to the Middle East. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to save the men, saying: “Their lives are the top priority.”
Abe and other Japanese officials declined to discuss whether they’d pay the ransom for captives Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, though their armed forces generally only operate in a self-defense capacity at home. Their kidnapping also immediately recalled the 2004 beheading of a Japanese backpacker in Iraq, carried out by the Islamic State group’s predecessor over Japan’s involvement in the U.S.-led war there.
Tuesday’s video, identified as being made by the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media arm and posted on militant websites associated with the extremist group, mirrored other hostage threats it has made. Japanese officials said they would analyze the tape to verify its authenticity, though Abe offered no hesitation as he pledged to free the men while speaking to journalists in Jerusalem.
“It is unforgivable,” said Abe as he wrapped up a six-day visit to the Middle East. He added: “Extremism and Islam are completely different things.”
In the video, the two men appear in orange jumpsuits with a rocky hill in the background, a masked militant dressed in black standing between them. The scene resembles others featuring the five hostages previously beheaded by the Islamic State group, which controls a third of Iraq and Syria.
“To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 kilometers (5,280 miles) from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” says the knife-brandishing militant, who resembles and sounds like a British militant involved in other filmed beheadings. “You have proudly donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims … and in an attempt to stop the expansion of the Islamic State, you have also donated another $100 million to train the (apostates).”