In a new video released on January 20, the Islamic State (IS) militant group has threatened to kill two Japanese hostages, unless Japan pays a ransom of $200 million within 72 hours.
A militant speaking in British-accented English and dressed in a black robe and a black balaclava features in the video. The militant looks and sounds similar to “Jihadi John,” the British jihadist thought to be responsible for the beheadings of five Western Islamic State hostages.
The video, titled A Message To The Government And People Of Japan, is one minute and 40 seconds long and follows the format of previous IS “hostage broadcasts.” The two hostages are clad in bright orange jumpsuits and have been made to kneel, while the English-speaking militant wields a knife and narrates the video’s message to camera.
The two Japanese hostages are named in the video as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.
The British militant says that the video is a message to the prime minister of Japan.
“Although you are more than 8,500 kilometers away from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteers to take part in this crusade," the militant says. "You donated $100 million to kill our women and children and destroy the homes of the Muslims. ... In an attempt to stop the expansion of the Islamic State, you also donated another $100 million to train the murtadeen (apostates) against the mujahedin,” the militant says.
The militant says that Japan will have to pay $100 million in ransom for each of the hostages.
The militant then addresses the “Japanese public.”
“Just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay $200 million to fight Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government into making a wise decision by paying the $200 million to save the lives of your citizens. Otherwise, this knife will become your nightmare,” the militant concludes.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said that it was checking to see whether the video is genuine. If the images are real, “such a threat by taking hostages is unacceptable and we are extremely resentful,” the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, according to Reuters.
Who are the two hostages?
Kenji Goto Jogo is a Japanese freelance journalist who went to Syria in 2014 to report on the conflict. He told an Associated Press reporter via e-mail in October that he hoped he could “convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it.”
Haruna Yukawa was reported as kidnapped in Syria on August 14, after militants from the Islamic State group overran the group of Free Syrian Army fighters that Yukawa had been with. A self-styled security consultant who never actually worked in that field, he had borrowed money to travel to Syria and Iraq.
A source with knowledge of Yukawa said in August that the Japanese man had run a military surplus store named Hidayaka International. The site is no longer operating but was intended for role playing games and fun, according to the source. Yukawa also opened a website for a security company named PMC (Private Military Security), but the company was nothing more than the website sinc eit had not undertaken any security contracts.
Yukawa had befriended fighters from the Free Syrian Army and even posted a number of video blogs on the Internet, one of which showed him firing guns in Aleppo Province. The video says that it is made by PMC.
Yukawa was acquainted with his fellow IS hostage, Goto Jogo, and traveled with him to Iraq. Goto Jogo told Reuters in August, after Yukawa’s capture, that he had met Yukawa in April and that Yukawa had a “soft, nonthreatening approach that makes people trust him and puts him at ease.”
-- Joanna Paraszczuk