The Washington Post reports: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shifted his Middle East visit into crisis mode Tuesday after the Islamic State threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless the extremist group receives a $200 million ransom within the next 72 hours.
The video, posted on militants’ Web sites Tuesday, shows an apparent Islamic State fighter wielding a knife and standing between two hostages wearing orange jumpsuits, whom the militants identify as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa.
A senior Japanese diplomat, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said Goto, a well-respected Japanese journalist, was last heard from on Oct. 24. He had told friends he was traveling to Kobane, a flashpoint town on the Turkish-Syrian border, but it is unclear exactly where he was kidnapped.
“I’m in Syria for reporting,” he told the AP in an e-mail late last year. “I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it.”
Yukawa went missing in August.
“We don’t know what he does exactly,” the diplomat said. “He says he runs a private military company, but we don’t have these kinds of companies in Japan. We believe he is a military fanatic, but he doesn’t have any official military experience. He’s not a fighter.”
“Officially, we don’t pay ransoms,” he added. “In some incidents in the past we might have paid, but we’d never announce it. I don’t know what will happen now.” [Continue reading…]