The Islamic State group threatened Tuesday to kill two Japanese hostages within 72 hours, demanding a $200 million ransom for their lives from Japan’s prime minister as he visited the Middle East.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to save captives Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, telling journalists in Jerusalem: “Their lives are the top priority.”
Abe faced a hard choice of rewarding extremists now targeted by a US-led coalition or asking an ally like America, which has tried a previous hostage rescue in Syria, to launch a risky operation on its behalf.
The video, released via militant websites associated with the Islamic State group and apparently made by its Al-Furqan media arm, mirrored other hostage threats it has made. Japanese officials said they would analyze the video to verify its authenticity, though Abe offered no hesitation as he pledged to free the men.
In the video, Goto and Yukawa in orange jumpsuits with a rocky hill in the background, a masked militant dressed in black standing between them. “To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 km from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” says the knife-brandishing militant.