ISIS Threatens Japanese Hostages

PM Shinzo Abe in Cairo Egypt

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab in Cairo last Saturday;
photo VOA/AP

ISIS Threatens Japanese Hostages
| published January 20, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


The militant terror group ISIS has demanded $200 million be given to it immediately, insisting that the money be delivered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his current week-long visit to the Middle East. ISIS says if the cash is not delivered on time it will behead two Japanese hostages.

Japanese leader Abe is in the Middle East this week as the lead member of a larger contingent of Japanese business leaders and government officials, there to discuss trade and economic issues.

ISIS is holding two Japanese citizens hostage, identified by intelligence experts as Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto Jogo. Yukawa is believed to be an ex-patriot of Japan—possibly an arms expert and military equipment vendor—who travelled to Syria and Iraq, some American and British intelligence officials believe, to expedite the sale of weapons and other materials to ISIS. Jogo is a freelance journalist who travelled to the Middle East to report on Syria’s civil war, and to also report on the humanitarian crisis facing both Syria and Turkey.

ISIS released a video which shows the two men kneeling, wearing the same type of orange jumpsuits already seen on previous videos, such as the videos which featured journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British hostages David Haines and Alan Henning, before their executions last summer and fall. In this newest video, a masked, hooded man with a British accent issues a grave threat, promising that the two hostages will be killed if the militant organization’s demands are not met within 72 hours.

The video was released early Tuesday morning and was widely distributed through social media around the world. The masked ISIS militant in the video is believed to be the same man who has appeared in previous ISIS videos. British law enforcement and intelligence officials have not confirmed the hooded man’s identity, but there are rumors that law enforcement has identified him as being from London.

Prime Minister Abe and other Japanese government spokespersons vowed to make every effort to save the lives of the hostages, but it was unclear if Japan would actually pay the $200 million ransom to the terrorists. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declared the demand for ransom, and the threat of beheading, grotesque and inhuman.

“If true,” Suga told reporters on Tuesday, “the act of threat in exchange for people’s lives is unforgivable, and we feel strong indignation. We will also make our utmost effort to win their release as soon as possible.”

ISIS has previously demanded large sums of cash in exchange for the bodies of some of its victims, including unconfirmed demands for money for the safe return of the remains of Foley and Sotloff. But this is the first time that the terror army has openly demanded ransom for a living hostage. Though ISIS continues to make modest gains on the battlefield, and even though the U.S.-led air campaign has had only moderate success in turning the tide on the militant army, ISIS may be facing a cash-flow crisis. A worldwide drop in demand for oil has accompanied a heavy rate of production by Saudi Arabia, driving down the market price for oil. The unintended effect for ISIS has been less cash for the oil which it sells on the black market, or oil which it sells on the open market to unscrupulous buyers and distributors. Last year, before the oil price freefall, ISIS was raking in millions of dollars each day from its oil revenue.

In his statements in the video, the masked man equates payment for the release of the Japanese hostages to the amount of money spent by Japan in support for military efforts of the coalition of countries fighting ISIS. The air campaign includes air power from at least six countries, but scores of other nations have lent support through funding, intelligence and materials.

In the meantime, spokespersons for Abe have said that deputy foreign minister Yasuhide Nakayama will travel immediately to Amman, the Jordanian capital, to attempt a negotiated settlement to the crisis.

Related Thursday Review articles:

A New Revenue Stream For ISIS?; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; December 15, 2014.

Will James Foley’s Death Raise the Stakes in Iraq?; Thursday Review; August 20, 2014.