National

Qatar tried to help free Japanese hostages

Kyodo

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah said Saturday during a visit to Japan that Qatar’s government tried to mediate the release of Japanese hostages before they were killed by the Islamic State group.

In an interview with Kyodo News, al-Attiyah said, “The Japanese government was very serious about this matter, and they engaged their friends in the region and tried their best to save the two Japanese.”

Al-Attiyah refrained from saying whether the Japanese government directly asked the Qatari government to help free the two men. “Qatar doesn’t have direct contact with ISIS,” he said, using an acronym for the group.

According to al-Attiyah, Qatar has a specialist team dedicated to hostage negotiation. The team has previously helped secure the release of a U.S. journalist and others held in Syria.

In the case of the Japanese hostages, the Qatari government “tried to engage with good people on the ground, who always try through other mediators to reach out and to try to see if they can get to this group,” he said.

Al-Attiyah expressed condolences over the deaths of Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto. He criticized the Islamic State group for not holding any negotiations and for killing the men “in cold blood in a very short time.”