News World Abe ‘won’t give in’ to ISIL ransom demands
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Abe ‘won’t give in’ to ISIL ransom demands

Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe. AAP
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The Islamic State (ISIL) militant group has released a video threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless it receives a $200 million ransom within 72 hours, but Tokyo has vowed not give in.

ISIL has murdered five Western hostages since August last year, but it is the first time that the jihadist group – which has seized swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq – has threatened Japanese captives.

In the footage, a black-clad militant brandishing a knife addresses the camera in English, standing between two hostages wearing orange jumpsuits.

“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,” he said.

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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe demanded IS immediately free the two hostages unharmed.

“I am extremely indignant at such an act,” he said.

“It is unforgivable and I feel strong resentment against this threat against human life.

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

In the video posted on jihadist websites, a militant said that the ransom demand was to compensate for $200 million in non-military aid that Mr Abe pledged in support of countries hit by IS violence.

But Mr Abe said that the aid would be disbursed as promised.

“This posture will not change at all,” he said, stressing that the money was to help the displaced and those made homeless by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

A spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry, Ken Okinawa, said the threats would not deter Japan from its pledge.

“There is a strong feeling against such acts which is unacceptable,” Mr Okinawa said.

“Japan will not succumb to terrorism. We will continue to contribute to the fight against terrorism.

“We are trying to work closely with other countries in order to secure the release of the hostages.

“We are making lots of effort.”

Japan said it was working closely with other countries to secure the men’s release.

In a statement, the United States state department said the US was fully supportive of Japan and the two countries were coordinating closely.

Mr Abe was to make the short drive from Jerusalem to visit Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah before cutting short his tour to fly home to Japan.

Militant in video spoke in English accent

Supplied
A still from the Islamic ransom video.

Since August, IS has murdered three Americans and two Britons, posting grisly video footage of their executions.

US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Peter Kassig and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines were all beheaded.

The militant who appeared in the video threatening the Japanese hostages spoke with a very similar southern English accent to the militant who appeared in the footage posted of the executions of the Britons and Americans.

Mr Abe pledged a total of $2.5 billion in humanitarian and development aid for the Middle East on the first leg of his tour in Cairo on Saturday.

He promised $200 million in non-military assistance for countries affected by ISIL’s bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria, which spurred an exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries.

One of the hostages, Yukawa, appeared in previous footage posted last August in which he was shown being roughly interrogated by his captors.

Another online video that appeared at the time showed a man believed to be Yukawa test-firing an AK-47 assault rifle in Syria.

The same video could be seen on the website of Tokyo-based private military firm PMC, which listed Mr Yukawa as its chief executive.

Calls to the firm at the time went unanswered and it was unclear if the company had other employees. Its website said the firm has branch offices in “Turkey, Syria, Africa”.

The second hostage, Goto, is a freelance journalist who set up a video production company, named Independent Press in Tokyo in 1996.

The company fed video documentaries on the Middle East and other regions to Japanese television networks, including public broadcaster NHK.

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