ANKARA – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country made every effort to win the release of the two Japanese hostages murdered by the Islamic State militant group.
In his first Japanese media interview since the crisis broke in January, the minister also said Wednesday in Ankara that Turkish intelligence authorities knew where the hostages were being detained and provided all the information to Japanese officials.
Cavusoglu said, however, he himself was not informed of the exact location.
The minister said Turkey gathered information from “reliable mediators” who cooperated with Turkey when it successfully rescued 49 hostages seized by the Islamic State in Iraq last year. The mediators are believed to be people such as local tribal leaders who might have channels to inside information on the extremist group.
“We have our own intelligence network” both in Syria and Iraq, he said.
Cavusoglu said Turkey, Japan and Jordan, which had faced a demand from the Islamic State extremists to release an Iraqi death row inmate in Jordan in exchange for the life of one of the Japanese, worked together to resolve the issue.
“We did everything we could, and offered various kinds of cooperation,” he said.
As for Islamic State, Cavusoglu called it a “brutal terrorist organization,” not a government capable of holding discussions, and said it does not have a proper leader.
The hostage crisis surfaced Jan. 20 in the midst of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial $200 million Middle East aid tour.
Abe held teleconferences with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Jordanian King Abdullah II the same day to seek help, but the Japanese government has not disclosed the content of the exchanges in detail.
Despite their efforts, the two hostages — Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa — were apparently slain by the militant group.
Turkey was seen as a key player in the crisis. Its southern border is only about 80 km away from Ar-Raqqah in northern Syria, a stronghold for Islamic State.
There had been information that Goto and Yukawa were detained in Ar-Raqqah and that Goto was transferred close to a border checkpoint in southern Turkey.
Cavusoglu said he plans to visit Japan in April.
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