Lacking strong clout and diplomatic reach in the Middle East, Japan scrambled Thursday for ways to secure the release of two hostages held by the Islamic State group, as two people with contacts there offered to try to negotiate.
The militants threatened in a video message to kill the hostages within 72 hours unless they receive $200 million in ransom. Based on the video’s release time, that deadline would expire sometime Friday.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Thursday that Japan was trying all possible ways to reach those holding the hostages — 47-year-old freelance journalist Kenji Goto, and 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security company.
Japan had not received any message from IS since the release of the video, he said.
The crisis is a test of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to expand Japan’s role in international affairs and raise the profile of its military. Tokyo lacks strong diplomatic connections in the Middle East, and Japanese diplomats left Syria as the civil war there escalated, adding to the difficulty of contacting the group holding the hostages.
This story is compiled with information from The Associated Press.