• Kyodo

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The World Conference of Religions for Peace, an alliance of faith leaders, on Thursday called for the release of the two hostages apparently held for ransom by the Islamic State extremist group.

“We urge the kidnappers to release the two Japanese hostages to a team of religious leaders and we are prepared to help facilitate this transfer,” the group said in a statement issued in Arabic, English and Japanese.

Having been engaged in work aimed at promoting harmony and reconciliation among various religious and ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq, the New York-based WCRP is planning to deliver its message to around 100 faith leaders in the region as a way to explore a channel of negotiations for the captives’ release.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, a Japanese envoy denounced the hostage takers’ threat to kill the two Japanese.

“Such an act of blackmail by holding innocent lives hostage is utterly impermissible, and we feel strong indignation against this act,” Yoshifumi Okamura, a deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said at a meeting of the General Assembly.

“Japan will not give in to terrorism and such violence,” he said. “We ask the United Nations and its member states to stand by us” in the fight against terrorism.