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Islamic State Crisis: Japanese nationals captured

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was rushing home from the Middle East on Wednesday (Jan 21) to take charge of Tokyo’s response after Islamic State militants threatened to kill two Japanese nationals.

The self-styled Islamic State group (IS) has murdered five Western hostages since August last year, but this is the first time the group has threatened Japanese captives;  the constitutionally pacifist country has steered clear of the armed entanglements of the US, Britain and other Western nations in the Middle East. The ensnarement of two of its citizens in the IS group’s bloody ideological battle is deeply shocking to Japan, and there is likely to be considerable domestic pressure on Abe to try to negotiate for their release, especially since his military only operates in a self-defence capacity at home.

In footage posted on militant websites, a black-clad militant brandishing a knife addressed the camera, standing between two hostages wearing orange jumpsuits. Speaking in English with a British accent, the militant demanded $200 million for the men’s release, linking the ransom to a pledge Abe made on Saturday of non-military aid to help the government of Iraq and to assist Syrian refugees who have fled the Islamic State’s brutality.

“To the prime minister of Japan … you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” said the masked man, who looked and sounded like the militant shown in other filmed beheadings.

“And to the Japanese public: Just as 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,” he said.

“Otherwise, this knife will become your nightmare.”

A defiant Abe vowed he would not bow to “terrorism”, telling a news conference in Jerusalem that he “strongly demanded that they not be harmed and that they be immediately released“.

One of the hostages, 47-year-old Kenji Goto, is a respected Japanese freelance journalist who went to report on Syria’s civil war last year.” I’m in Syria for reporting,” Goto wrote in an email to an Associated Press journalist in October before his abduction. “I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it.” The other captive, 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, founder of a private security company, was kidnapped in Syria in August after going there to train with militants, according to a post on the blog he kept.

However, film editor Genta Tamaki noted apparent discrepancies in the shadows cast in the video, which, he said, could indicate that images of the two men had been inserted into the desert footage, since ” these shadows do not look as one might expect in sunlight.”

This might occur if filming was done indoors using several lights and combined with the background later, he said, although he added it was not possible to be certain. It was also noted clothes worn by Yukawa moved more than those Goto was wearing, and neither man flinched when their captor waved his knife near them.  Japanese officials said they would analyse the video to verify its authenticity, though Abe offered no hesitation as he pledged to free the men.

References:

Germaine Lee (2 Truth)

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