Hostages in limbo as deadline passes


Staff Writer

The presumed 72-hour deadline for paying the exorbitant ransom demanded by the Islamic State group apparently expired at 2:50 p.m. Friday without any hint about what would happen to the two Japanese hostages in its grasp.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the No. 2 man in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, said Tokyo had not received any correspondence from the Islamic extremists as of Friday afternoon.

“We haven’t received any particular” messages from the Islamic State group about the apparent expiration of the deadline, Suga told the news conference, which started shortly after 4 p.m.

“The situation remains very tough.”

Later in the day, a high-ranking official denied speculation the deadline may have been extended by secret negotiations with the terrorist group.

“That’s not the case,” the official said, adding the government had seen few developments to inspire optimism.

On Friday morning, the same official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tokyo was not engaged in any substantial negotiations with the armed jihadis over conditions for winning the release of the two men.

In a video uploaded to websites Tuesday, a masked English-speaking man with a British accent threatened to kill journalist Kenji Goto, 47, and private security contractor Haruna Yukawa, 42, after 72 hours if Japan did not pay a ransom of $200 million.

The masked man did not explicitly say when the 72-hour time span started. The government came across the video clip at around 2:50 p.m. Tuesday and presumed it was the starting point of the group’s demand.

Meanwhile, Japanese police have raised the national terrorism alert “to the top level,” and strengthened monitoring at immigration offices across the country, another senior official said Friday.

“This is nothing about religion. We are trying to gather information about terrorism,” the official said, suggesting the government has begun to more closely monitor certain Muslims entering or leaving the country.

On Thursday, the United States informally made known to Japan its position against making ransom payments to terrorists, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington.

The U.S. view is that “it puts citizens at risk and it certainly is not a policy that we here in the United States implement or we support,” Psaki told a press conference, adding, “I think Japan knows our long-standing position on that issue.”

She added that Washington has privately conveyed its position and that Tokyo is familiar with it.

But in Tokyo on Friday, Suga said he was “not aware of” such a message from the U.S., apparently ignoring Psaki’s comment, which was widely reported by Japanese media outlets.

Over the past three days, Suga has been repeatedly asked by reporters if Tokyo is willing to pay a ransom to the terrorist group.

Suga didn’t answer directly, only repeating Japan “will not give in to terrorism” and that it has put “top priority” on saving the lives of the two hostages.

Meanwhile, according to Kyodo News, the government has desperately been trying to contact the Islamic State group through an email address used to demand the ransom from Goto’s wife.

A government source said no response had been received from the group as of Thursday night, Kyodo News reported.

According to the source, Goto’s wife received an email message in November notifying the family that the freelance journalist had been kidnapped.

Since then, around 10 more email messages have been sent to her, Kyodo reported.The email, allegedly sent by the armed group, reportedly included information that only Goto and members of his family could have known.

In January, the group issued a demand to Goto’s wife, asking her to pay around ¥2 billion in euros as a ransom, the source said. Earlier reports said the ¥2 billion ransom had been demanded in December.

Information from Kyodo added

Japanese hostage crises: a timeline


The deadline set by Islamic militants threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless Tokyo pays a $200 million ransom passed Friday with no news of their fate.

Here are some key hostage crises that have embroiled Japanese nationals abroad in the past.

September 1977: Five armed members of the Japanese Red Army hijack a Japan Airlines plane with 156 people on board while en route from Paris to Tokyo.

The hijackers order it to be flown to Dhaka and demand $6 million and the release of nine imprisoned JRA members.

Prime minister Takeo Fukuda accepts the hijackers’ demands, saying “human life is heavier than the Earth.”

Six imprisoned JRA members are released and the hostages are freed in Bangladesh.

November 1986: The Manila office chief of trading giant Mitsui is kidnapped in a suburb by five armed men. A ransom of $10 million is reportedly paid and the hostage is released.

December 1996: Left-wing militants take hundreds of diplomats and others hostage during a party at the official residence of the Japanese ambassador to Peru.

The siege lasts more than 100 days before the Peruvian military moves in. One captive and all the hostage-takers are killed.

October 1999: Japanese geologists Haruo Harada, Hirotaro Fujii, Nobuhisa Nakajima and Toshiaki Ariie and their interpreter are set free in Kyrgyzstan after being held for two months by Islamic rebels entering from Tajikistan.

The ransom for the four was reportedly described as a few tons of flour and a sum ranging from $2 million to $5 million, but a Japanese official denied paying a ransom and said he was of the belief that neither did Kyrgyzstan.

April 2004: Three Japanese spend a week in captivity in Iraq after being snatched by a group calling itself the Mujahedeen Brigades.

They demand the pullout of Japanese troops. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rejects the demand but the three are later released unharmed, reportedly after interventions by Muslim leaders.

The three, volunteer aid workers Noriaki Imai, (18 at the time) and Nahoko Takato, along with photojournalist Soichiro Koriyama, both in their 30s, are roundly criticized upon their return to Japan for being irresponsible and putting themselves at risk.

October 2004: Backpacker Shosei Koda, 24, is killed in Iraq by Islamists after Koizumi refuses to pull Japan’s 550 troops out of the country.

Koda’s head and his body with hands and feet bound are found wrapped in a U.S. flag in Baghdad. The SDF soldiers were on a mission to help rebuild the war-torn country.

The al-Qaida-linked group run by Iraq’s most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, posts a video and photos on the Internet showing three hooded men pouncing on the young tourist.

The militants say they spurned an offer from Tokyo of “millions of dollars in ransom” to save Koda. Japan denies offering the ransom.

September 2010: Freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka, then 41, is freed unhurt after a five-month hostage ordeal in Afghanistan at the hands of Hizb-i-Islami.

Tsuneoka subsequently becomes known in Japan for his expertise on Islamic issues.

January 2013: Militants storm an isolated gas plant in Algeria, one of the country’s largest upstream facilities, killing dozens of people over a four-day siege.

Ten Japanese are dead by the time Algerian commandos gain control of the site, the worst single death toll for any of the countries involved.

  • Jay Reams

    “Since Japan’s military operates only in a self-defense capacity a home
    any rescue attempt would require help from an ally like the United

    Better fix that quick Japan. Islam is here and if you don’t act you will be acted upon.

    Look how the mothers are quick to “pay the ransom” without regard to the fact that will make things worse.

    If I were the Japanese (or any) government I would tell every citizen over there come home immediately or you’re on your own.

  • Hanamanganda

    It would be completely foolish to pay the random. I hope Japan’s leaders are not so weak. What do you think will be done with that money? More kidnappings of course. The violent and murderous do not respond to compassion or tolerance. They respond only to being killed.

    • Japan already provides a lot of funding for kidnapping with their war on marijuana that converts weeds into treasure.

    • James

      “I hope Japan’s leaders are not so weak”
      Very typical of the American (you may or may not be one) way of thinking. There is no weakness in giving in to demands as long as you save the life of someone….instead of just saving your face.
      This is *the* single biggest problem existing. All the American government needs to do to stop terrorism is to withdraw from the Middle East and stop poking their noses there. But this will never happen only because they don’t want to be perceived as being weak. They will even threaten their own citizens (families of hostages) not to pay ransom demands leading to hostages being killed. And now they’re trying to dictate what Japan should do.
      In my opinion, pay the ransom, receive the hostages, then send the jets.
      I bet if you were the hostage then your definition of weakness would be redefined.

  • timefox

    I hope that Mr. Goto can return.

    But, It’s wrong to suggest compromise to Abe political power by a hostage event. That gives a wrong expectation to a terrorist, and moreover Japanese will be just kidnaped. That’s same as supporting a terrorist.

    A terrorist kidnaped Japanese.
    A terrorist restricted Japanese.
    A terrorist threatened Japanese.
    A terrorist will kill Japanese.

    A terrorist should be criticized.

  • PaulK

    The situation for the government and the family must be appalling.
    If you pay the ransom, however, the terrorists discover it is a system that works and they can then go on to finance more atrocities and acquire more weapons. They WILL continue to take hostages. In addition to this, what value is a guarantee by a terrorist worth that the hostage will be returned safely?

  • Testerty

    Nobody question why the Japanese government does not condemn Haruna Yukawa for taking arms against the Iraqi people. It was obvious his “friend”, Kenji Goto, was not acting as a journalist when he was captured, but as a spy. Both cannot complain they are innocent.

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      Yukawa is a person with some obvious mental problems, Goto is an accredited free-lance journalist. What do you base your claim that it’s “obvious” he was acting as a spy on?

      • Testerty

        Goto said he was searching for Yukawa, his friend. They are both not innocent. Mental cases or not, you don’t get a free pass to go to Iraq and Syria to kill people without taking responsibility.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        When and where did Goto kill anyone? What is he guilty of, beyond trying to find Yukawa?

      • Testerty

        A spy does not need to kill anybody to be hang or in this case, beheaded. You should know that, right?

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        And…where is your evidence that Goto is a spy? Thinking/saying he is doesn’t prove anything. You seem inordinately eager for these guys to be decapitated too.

      • Testerty

        He went to the region pretending to be a journalist while secretly seeking to find information leading to the rescue of his “friend”. You don’t call that spying?

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        ”Pretending to be a journalist”? I think you need to do a bit more fact checking, he IS a journalist. A free-lance journalist. If he was looking for Yukawa I don’t consider that unnatural. It’s a news story. And he’s been in the region before. Are you aware of events that happen prior to your waking up every morning, or does every sunrise catch you by surprise?

      • Testerty

        He is a spy. We already determined that.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        Who is “we”, and how did you determine that? You saying it does not, by any means, make it so. I fear you, my friend, have delusions of grandeur.

  • Phil Blank

    Paying the ransom is aiding the enemy with financial support!
    DON’T DO IT!
    Paying it, is the worst thing to do and will encourage more hostage ransom demands.

    • The drug war is aiding the enemy with financial support and Japan continues to do it.

  • Nelly

    I would hate to be in this position as a relative of the kidnapped but if Japan pays the ransom, they are only supporting terrorism. I would hope that if I was related to the kidnapped I could stand strong against terrorism. If everyone refuses to pay ransoms then kidnappings will be pointless.

  • Mike McCarty

    Japan should tell the terrorist’s if you lay a hand on them, you’ll get 200 million mortars dropped in every square meter of your ISIL, and if they are not back in safety by tomorrow, we’ll start delivering your first shipment. Load the planes and leave tonight.

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      Japan’s military hasn’t been involved in a conflict since 1945. It has not now, nor ever had, any experience fighting in a desert environment. It probably also has an almost, if not complete, lack of intelligence regarding the whereabouts of the hostages. Not the best way to start a military exploit.

      • Mike McCarty

        Japan’s expertise in mass production would certainly help fill up the cargo bays of thousands of B-52’s. As far as civilians, isil had already killed them all. Only heathens left in the isil territory to carpet bomb.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        So you reckon factories built to make cars and cameras (not that many of them are still made here though) could be be easily changed over to making bombs to fill B52s (of which less than 1,000 were ever made, so you’ll come up a tad short there…) eh? And no civilians left? Only “heathens”? Do you occasionally wear a white cloak with a pointy hat?

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        Too busy Liking your own post to reply there Mike?????

    • 151E

      While I support your general sentiment, what is the contingency plan if middle eastern countries, bowing to popular public pressure, retaliate by suspending oil exports to Japan? How much do we stake on the lives of a psychologically unstable mercenary and a foolishly brave journalist? Or is this more about national pride?

      • Mike McCarty

        There is plenty of oil in every part of the world if developed, but Japans allies would not let this happen. I believe Japan has become a good thing in this world of ours, and is a needed and cherished allie. As far as fools working at wandering into such a backward Hell hole, we’ll never know their thought pattern, as headless fool journalist don’t express much other than showing to the world how low the scum of the earth can get, which should be a really powerful message. As far as pride in war, there is no such thing. Only the pride to the victor, as knowing they did the right thing to rid the world of the worst people and worst philosophy that exists to harm others because they don’t share their own miserable lives.
        Japan, help us rid the world of these scum………

  • Eagle

    “Meanwhile, Japanese police have raised the national terrorism alert “to
    the top level,” and strengthened monitoring at immigration offices
    across the country, another senior official said Friday.”

    Good idea. You pay and prove you’re coward you will get more even in Japan. You don’t pay you get a revenge in the heart of Tokyo.

    That’s not for money, it’s a game of power that can change a PM and a country.
    And Abe just have no idea what to do. Interesting; this situation critical to Abe’s position came soon after the snap-election he won so amazingly well. Hmmmmm