An online video released Tuesday purported to show the Islamic State group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless they receive a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours.
The video, identified as being made by the Islamic State group's al-Furqan media arm and posted on militant websites associated with the extremist group, mirrored other hostage threats it has made. The militant in it also directly addresses Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now on a six-day visit to the Middle East with more than 100 government officials and presidents of Japanese companies.
"To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 kilometers (5,280 miles) from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade," says the knife-brandishing militant in the video, who resembles and sounds like a British militant involved in other filmed beheadings by the Islamic State group. "You have proudly donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims."
The video shows two hostages in orange jumpsuits that the militants identify as Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa. Japan's Foreign Ministry's anti-terrorism section has seen the video and analysts are assessing it, a ministry official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules. Abe was to appear at a news conference later Tuesday in Jerusalem.
In August, a Japanese citizen believed to be Yukawa, a private military company operator in his early 40s, was kidnapped in Syria after going there to train with militants, according to a post on a blog kept. Pictures on his Facebook page show him in Iraq and Syria in July. One video on his page showed him holding a Kalashnikov assault rifle with the caption: "Syria war in Aleppo 2014."
Goto is a respected Japanese freelance journalist who went to report on Syria's civil war last year and knew of Yukawa.
"I'm in Syria for reporting," he wrote in an email to an Associated Press journalist in October. "I hope I can convey the atmosphere from where I am and share it."
The Islamic State group has beheaded and shot dead hundreds of captives — mainly Syrian and Iraqi soldiers — during its sweep across the two countries, and has celebrated its mass killings in extremely graphic videos. A British-accented jihadi also has appeared in the beheading videos of slain American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and with British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning.
The group also holds British photojournalist John Cantlie, who has appeared in other extremist propaganda videos, and a 26-year-old American woman captured last year in Syria while working for aid groups. U.S. officials have asked that the woman not be identified out of fears for her safety.
Tuesday's video marks the first time the Islamic State group specifically has demanded cash for hostages. Though the militant in the video links it to the Japanese funding efforts to counter the Islamic State group, it comes amid recent losses for the extremists targeted in airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition. Its militants also recently released some 200 mostly elderly Yazidi hostages in Iraq, fueling speculation by Iraqi officials that the group couldn't support them.