ISIS demands $200 million or will behead 2 Japanese hostages

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, currently on a Middle Eastern tour with an entourage including many CEOs, faces a serious crisis.  ISIS has released a video of two Japanese hostages with a threat, apparently from the same British-accented fighter, dubbed “Jihadi John,” to behead them online, as he did to other Western hostages.

The $200-million figure is a reference to the same amount just pledged by Japan for humanitarian aid to refugees from the fighting in Syria.  ISIS takes this as a pledge to its enemies and worse:

“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,” the masked man said in the video, speaking with what sounded like a British accent. “Otherwise this knife will become your nightmare.”

The two hostages have been identified as Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa.  Goto is a well-established freelance journalist (his website is here), while Yukawa appears to be a bit of a soldier of fortune.  The New York Times reports:

According to the website of Mr. Yukawa, the chief executive of the private security firm PMC, he was captured in Syria in August. He was shown last year in a video posted online lying bleeding on the ground, being interrogated in English. He told his interrogators that he was working as a doctor and a journalist, but the interrogator also asked why he was carrying a weapon. PMC’s website links to video of him firing an AK-47 assault rifle in Aleppo, Syria, along with other images of him Iraq and Syria.

At least for now, PM Abe is standing firm:

Abe said he would honor a promise of $200 million in aid, announced on Saturday, to countries affected by ISIS.

"This posture will not change at all," he told a Jerusalem news conference on the latest leg of a Middle East tour.

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

Earlier, the Japanese government said it will not give in to "terrorism" after a video emerged of the hostage situation.

"Our country's stance -- contributing to the fight against terrorism without giving in -- remains unchanged," chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.

"The video contains threats to murder two people who appear to be Japanese nationals," said Suga. "We are checking if it's credible.

"Taking people hostage is unforgivable and I feel strong anger.

"The Japanese government is determined to do its best to secure the release of the Japanese as soon as possible."

But at the same time, he is vowing to save the hostages, and in Tokyo, the chief cabinet secretary is not saying whether Japan will pay the ransom or not.

Abe’s political opponents would jump all over him if the hostages are beheaded, particularly on camera.  He would be portrayed as inhuman and lacking in compassion, with blood on his hands.  And yet he also knows that transferring $200 million to ISIS will result in many more deaths and identify Japanese nationals as prime hostage candidates for miscreants around the world.

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