IS threatens lives of 2 Japanese hostages in new video (LIVE BLOG)

Updated on
People look at a large TV screen in Tokyo on Jan. 20, 2015 showing news reports about two Japanese men who have been kidnapped by the Islamic State group.
Yoshikazu Tsuno


UPDATE: 01/20/15 4:00 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. Follow @GlobalPost on Twitter for the latest updates.

UPDATE: 01/20/15 2:45 PM ET

Repercussions of the hostage crisis for Japanese PM

Time Magazine lays out the potential consequences Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might face, depending on how he decides to handle the hostage situation:

... the crisis is certain to polarize the Japanese public. Polls show a majority remain deeply committed to Japan’s pacifist Constitution, despite a swing to the right by political leaders. Conservative rhetoric about patriotism is unlikely to sway them, says Nakano.

Read on here.

UPDATE: 01/20/15 1:19 PM ET

US says it supports Japan, calls for captives' release

Reuters — The United States on Tuesday said it condemned the purported Islamic State threat to kill two Japanese citizens, calling for the immediate release of the civilian captives as well as "all other hostages."

"The United States is fully supportive of Japan in this matter. We stand in solidarity with Japan and are coordinating closely," US State Department Jen Psaki said in a statement. Psaki added that US Secretary of State will speak with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, later today.

UPDATE: 01/20/15 12:30 PM ET

Canadian troops on the ground

The Independent's Kunal Dutta reports that Canadian Special Forces have engaged in fighting on the ground with IS militants in what is reportedly the first "public ground battle in Iraq between Western troops and Isis."

The news is raising some concern in Canada. 

"These revelations would appear to make it more challenging for the Harper government to say Canada does not have “boots on the ground” in Iraq, meaning soldiers engaged in direct combat with Islamic State jihadis," The Globe and Mail's Steven Chase writes

UPDATE: 01/20/15 11:33 AM ET

Here's what happened to previous Japanese hostages

The Associated Press reports:

One has been killed; most have been released. It is unclear how many times Japan has paid ransom previously. The only confirmed case was in Kyrgyzstan in 1999.

UPDATE: 01/20/15 9:40 AM ET

Japan's past international hostage crisis

"The last time Japan faced an international hostage situation, it did not end well," GlobalPost's Peter Gelling writes. "Almost exactly two years ago, 10 Japanese hostages were killed when Algerian authorities stormed the gas complex where militants had been holding them. A recent report in an Algerian newspaper said Japan had at the time offered to pay a ransom for their release."

UPDATE: 01/20/15 9:04 AM ET

Tokyo vows not to give in

Agence France-Presse is reporting that the Japanese government is refusing to give in to Islamic State's $200-million ransom demand.

"Our country's stance — contributing to the fight against terrorism without giving in — remains unchanged," chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga was quoted as saying by the news agency.

UPDATE: 01/20/15 8:30 AM ET

IS says Japan has 72 hours to respond

Reuters — The Islamic State released an online video on Tuesday purporting to show two Japanese captives and threatening to kill them unless it received $200 million in ransom.

A black-clad figure with a knife, standing in a barren landscape 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 US-led coalition waging a military campaign against the Islamic State.

The militant, who spoke in English, demanded "200 million" without specifying a currency, but an Arabic subtitle identified it as US dollars. The footage named the men as Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. The video was not dated, but on a visit to Cairo on Jan. 17, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged about $200 million in non-military assistance for countries battling the Islamic State.

Abe, speaking in Jerusalem on Tuesday toward the end of a six-day tour of the Middle East, said the Islamic State's threat to the two purported captives was "unacceptable."

"We strongly demand the release of the Japanese citizens unharmed," Abe said. "The international community needs to respond firmly and cooperate without caving into terrorism."

The video resembled others distributed by Islamic State outlets in which captives were threatened or killed. It appeared to be the first time that an Islamic State video specifically demanded cash for captives.

Cabinet meets in Tokyo

In Tokyo, Japan's foreign ministry said it was checking the video to see whether the footage was genuine.

Cabinet ministers in Tokyo announced that they were meeting to discuss the government's response to the militants' threats. 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, 43, traveled to Iraq and Syria last year after telling friends and family that he thought it represented a last chance to turn his life around. Over the previous decade, he had lost a business to bankruptcy, lost his wife to cancer and become homeless, according to his father and an online journal. It was not clear what exactly he was doing in the region.

Yukawa's father, Shoichi Yukawa, declined to comment, saying he was overwhelmed by the news reports.

The militant in the footage, who spoke with a British accent, appeared to have the same voice as a jihadist shown with captives in previous Islamic State videos.

Similar videos have shown captives beheaded, including Western aid workers and journalists.

The hardline Islamist group, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, has also killed more than 1,000 Syrians off the battlefield since it expanded a caliphate under its control in June, according to a monitoring group.

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