Japan’s Abe responds to ISIS hostage video

Video emerges alleging to show ISIS threaten to kill two Japanese unless a $200 million ransom is paid

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that a threat to the lives of two purported Japanese captives by ISIS militants was unacceptable and that he strongly condemned acts of terrorism.

Abe was speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, part of a multi-nation visit to the Middle East.

In the video, a knife-wielding black-clad figure stood in a desert area along with two men and wearing orange clothing, believed to be hostages Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.


The alleged ISIS member said the Japanese public had 72 hours to pressure their government to stop its "foolish" support for the U.S.-led coalition waging a military campaign against ISIS.

Abe said he would honor a promise of $200 million in aid, announced on Saturday, to countries affected by ISIS.

"This posture will not change at all," he told a Jerusalem news conference on the latest leg of a Middle East tour.

"The international community will not give in to terrorism and we have to make sure that we work together."

Earlier, the Japanese government said it will not give in to "terrorism" after a video emerged of the hostage situation.

"Our country's stance -- contributing to the fight against terrorism without giving in -- remains unchanged," chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.

"The video contains threats to murder two people who appear to be Japanese nationals," said Suga. "We are checking if it's credible.

"Taking people hostage is unforgivable and I feel strong anger.

"The Japanese government is determined to do its best to secure the release of the Japanese as soon as possible."

Japanese cabinet ministers are set to convene to discuss the government's response further, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Abe’s anti-ISIS aid

On Saturday, Abe pledged $200 million in non-military assistance for states affected by ISIS's bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria, which triggered an exodus of refugees to neighboring countries.

Speaking during visit to Cairo, Abe warned of the “immeasurable loss” the world would suffer if terrorism spreads across the Arab world, according to Reuters news agency.

"Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable," Abe said in the Egyptian capital at the start of a regional tour.

"I will pledge assistance of a total of about 200 million U.S. dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on," said Abe, using another term for ISIS.

ISIS controls large parts of OPEC oil producer Iraq and neighboring Syria, has declared a caliphate and wants to redraw the map of the Middle East, a region vital for Japan's energy needs.

The hostages

Haruna Yukawa is a 42-year-old widower who reportedly has a history of attempted suicide and self-mutilation. Yukawa came to widespread attention in Japan when footage of his apparent interrogation in the Syrian scrub was posted online last August.

He was seen lying on the ground, with matted brown hair and wearing a black T-shirt stained by dust and sweat, as blood trickled down his face.

Yukawa offered brief responses to questions posed in English about why he was in Syria and the reason he was carrying a gun.

He replied in stilted English that he was a “photographer” and a “journalist, half doctor”, as his interrogators accused him of lying, with one placing a long knife near his chest.

“I’m no soldier,” he said.

Another video surfaced showing a man believed to be Yukawa test-firing an AK-47 assault rifle in Syria.

The same video could also be seen at the website of Tokyo-based private military firm PMC, which lists Yukawa as its chief executive. Pictures on the website show him with right-wing Japanese activists.

Its website said the firm has branch offices in “Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Africa”, and it says its services include providing “security abroad”.

Kenji Goto is a freelance journalist who established a video production company, named Independent Press, in Tokyo in 1996, supplying documentaries on the Middle East and other regions to Japanese television networks, including public broadcaster NHK.

Goto has apparently been out of contact since late October after telling family that he intended to return to Japan, NHK reported.

In early November, his wife received email demands for about one billion yen ($8.5 million) in ransom from a person claiming to be an ISIS group member, Fuji TV said.

The Japanese government is believed to have discreetly started investigations after the threats contained information that only Goto himself would know, the broadcaster said.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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