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Source in Syria says two Japanese hostages captured by the Islamic State still alive

Kyodo

An anti-government source in Syria told Kyodo News on Saturday it heard that the two Japanese hostages captured by the Islamic State group were alive at least until Saturday afternoon local time. The source is believed to be close to the armed extremists.

If true, it would be the first information indicating journalist Kenji Goto and private security contractor Haruna Yukawa may still be alive. The hostage crisis broke out Tuesday and an apparent 72-hour deadline set by the Islamic State militants expired on Friday afternoon. Kyodo contacted the source by phone.

In an on-line video posted Tuesday on websites, an English-speaking masked man threatened to kill the two unless the Japanese government paid $200 million. The presumed deadline expired at 2:50 p.m. Friday, but Tokyo was still unable to contact the Islamic extremists, government sources said Saturday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered his administration to make every effort to secure the release of the two hostages, while pledging in public at the same time “not to given in to terrorism.”

Japan has requested support from Middle Eastern countries, tribal chiefs and religious leaders to reach out to the jihadis.