The militant Islamic State (Isis) group, which holds territory in Iraq and Syria, issued a video online on Tuesday purporting to show two Japanese captives and demanding $200-million from the Japanese government to save their lives.
A black-clad figure with a knife, standing in a desert area along with two kneeling men wearing orange clothing, said the Japanese public had 72 hours to pressure their government to stop its “foolish” support for the United States-led coalition waging a military campaign against Isis.
The militant, who spoke in English, demanded “200-million” without specifying a currency, but an Arabic subtitle identified it as US dollars. The video identified the men as Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
“To the prime minister of Japan, although you are more than 8 500km away from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” the knife-wielding militant said in the video.
“You have proudly donated $100-million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims,” he said.
The video was not dated, but on a visit to Cairo on January 17, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged around $200-million in non-military assistance for countries battling Isis.
Abe was in Jerusalem on Tuesday as part of a regional tour.
In Tokyo, Japan’s foreign ministry said it was checking the video to see whether the footage was genuine and said that, “such a threat by taking hostages is unacceptable and we are extremely resentful”.
Goto is a freelance reporter who was based in Tokyo. He has written books on Aids and children in war zones from Afghanistan to Africa and reported for news broadcasters in Japan.
Goto met Yukawa last year and helped him travel to Iraq in June, he told Reuters in August.
Yukawa’s father, Shoichi Yukawa, declined to comment, saying he was overwhelmed by the news reports.
The video resembled others distributed by Isis outlets in which captives were threatened or killed.
The militant, who spoke with a British accent, appeared to have the same voice as a jihadist shown threatening captives in previous Isis videos. – Reuters, Staff reporter