Story by the Associated Press; curated by Oliver Darcy.
CAIRO (AP) — An online video released Tuesday purported to show the Islamic State group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless they receive a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours.
The 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. The militant in it also directly addresses Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now on a six-day visit to the Middle East with more than 100 government officials and presidents of Japanese companies.
In newly released video, Islamic State demands $200 million in next 72 hours from Japan to save two hostages. pic.twitter.com/Dk0jjWkTsm— TheBlazeNOW (@TheBlazeNOW) January 20, 2015
Speaking in Jerusalem, Abe vowed to save the hostages, identified by the extremists as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa. He called on the Islamic State group to immediately release the hostages
"Their lives are the top priority," Abe said. He added: "Extremism and Islam are completely different things."
UPDATE: Japan says it will not “give in to terrorism” after Islamic State threatens to kill two hostage unless $200M ransom is paid - @AFP— TheBlazeNOW (@TheBlazeNOW) January 20, 2015
JERUSALEM (@AP) — Japanese premier vows to save Islamic State group hostages: 'Their lives are the top priority'— TheBlazeNOW (@TheBlazeNOW) January 20, 2015
In the video, the two men appear in orange jumpsuits like other hostages previously killed 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 in the video, 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."
Japan's Foreign Ministry's anti-terrorism section has seen the video and analysts are assessing it, a ministry official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules.
Speaking in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to say whether Japan would pay the ransom.
"If true, the act of threat in exchange of people's lives is unforgivable and we feel strong indignation," Suga told journalists. "We will make our utmost effort to win their release as soon as possible."
In August, a Japanese citizen believed to be Yukawa, a private military company operator in his early 40s, was kidnapped in Syria after going there to train with militants, according to a post on a blog kept. Pictures on his Facebook page show him in Iraq and Syria in July. One video on his page showed him holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle with the caption: "Syria war in Aleppo 2014."
"I cannot identify the destination," Yukawa wrote in his last blog post. "But the next one could be the most dangerous." He added: "I hope to film my fighting scenes during an upcoming visit."
Yukawa's father, Shoichi, who lives in Chiba, just outside Tokyo, expressed shock over the news in an interview with Japanese public television station NKH.
"I don't understand this," he said. "I'm quite confused."
Goto is a respected Japanese freelance journalist who went to report on Syria's civil war last year and knew of Yukawa.
"I'm in Syria for reporting," he wrote in an email to an Associated Press journalist in October. "I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it."
The Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos. A British-accented jihadi also has appeared in the beheading videos of slain American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and with British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning.
The group also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in other extremist propaganda videos, and a 26-year-old American woman captured last year in Syria while working for aid groups. U.S. officials have asked that the woman not be identified out of fears for her safety.
Tuesday's video marks the first time the Islamic State group specifically has demanded cash for hostages. Though the militant in the video links it to the Japanese funding efforts to counter the Islamic State group, it comes amid recent losses for the extremists targeted in airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition. Its militants also recently released some 200 mostly elderly Yazidi hostages in Iraq, fueling speculation by Iraqi officials that the group couldn't support them.
This is Abe's second Mideast hostage crisis since becoming prime minister. Two years ago, al-Qaida-affiliated militants attacked an Algerian natural gas plant and the ensuing four-day hostage crisis killed 29 insurgents and 37 foreigners, including 10 Japanese who were working for a Yokohama-based engineering company, JCG Corp. Seven Japanese survived.