ISIS Video Threatens Japanese Hostages With Death Unless Shinzo Abe Hands Over $200 Million

On Tuesday, a disturbing video apparently posted by ISIS threatened two Japanese hostages. It's the terror group's first public video threat in two months, and the first one to feature non-Western hostages. The video features a black-clad militant similar to the one who appeared in past hostage videos who addresses the Japanese public and calls its government "foolish" for supporting the fight against the Islamic State. He threatens to kill the two men if the Japanese government doesn't pay $200 million in 72 hours.

In the video, the militant, who speaks in what appears to be a British accent, says:

To the Japanese public, just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise decision by paying the 200 million to save the lives of your citizens. Otherwise this knife will become your nightmare.

The figure, $200 million, is the same that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on Sunday to support those fighting against ISIS, which apparently prompted the group to make the video threat. The masked militant in the video also addresses Abe directly, saying, "Although you are more than 8,500 kilometers away from the Islamic State, you willingly volunteered to take part in this crusade."

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This is the first time that ISIS has targeted Japanese hostages in one its high-profile videos, as previous ones featured either American, British, or French captives. Like the U.S. and Britain, Japan appears to be staying firm about not giving into their demands. Japanese government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga issued a statement on Tuesday:

Our country will not be intimidated by terrorism, and there is no change to our policy of contributing to the international community’s fight against terrorism.

However, Suga did not confirm whether or not the government would pay the ransom and he said that officials were still verifying the authenticity of the video.

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Prime Minister Abe issued a similar statement of defiance:

Using human lives as a shield to make threats is an unforgivable terrorist act, and I am extremely indignant. I strongly demand that they be released unharmed immediately.

Abe, who is currently in Jerusalem as part of a six-day Middle East tour, had formally pledged to "help curb the threat ISIL poses" during a speech in Cairo on Sunday. Abe stated:

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.
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The two hostages in the video, who wear orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by previous captives, have been identified as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa. According to the Guardian, Goto is a freelance journalist and author in his late 40s who has written books on war and refugees. Yukawa had traveled to Syria last year to fight with Free Syrian Army rebels after trying to become a security consultant in Japan.

Tuesday's video isn't the first time Yukawa was featured as a hostage in a video believed to be made by ISIS. When Yukawa was captured in Syria in August, his captors released a video showing him bloodied and being interrogated. The video, however, was not the same message-style format that ISIS is gruesomely notorious for. Images: Getty Images (3)