ISIS asked for a ransom of $200 million from the Japanese government after releasing a video on Tuesday, Jan. 20, threatening to execute two Japanese citizens.
On Jan. 24, several news outlets reported that one of the citizens, Haruna Yukawa, had been executed. A photograph was posted online by a known ISIS supporter and showed Kenji Goto, the other Japanese citizen, holding a photo of what appears to be Yukawa’s beheaded body, according to CNN.
The video posted on Jan. 20 showed the two men kneeling with a masked man standing in between the two, holding a knife. The masked man, speaking with a British accent, threatened the Japanese men and their government.
The militant in the video named $200 million as the ransom price after Abe pledged the same amount toward improving the welfare of the Middle East.
“Just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in […] paying the 200 million to save the lives of your citizens,” the masked man said in the video, according to a New York Times article published Jan. 20.
“This is unforgivable and I feel a strong resentment,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a press conference cited by the Associated Press.
According to the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Yoshihide Suga, the militant was misinformed.
“Japan’s aid is absolutely not being used to kill Muslims, as claimed by these brutal criminals,” Suga said in an article published Jan. 21 by CBS News.
In the same CBS News article, Suga said, “We will not yield to terrorism, and there is no change to our position of contributing to campaigns against terror in international society.”
Abe called for the immediate release of the hostages, which could create challenges for his government. The extremely pacifistic Japanese public was mostly against a heightened military and political role.
This marks the first time that ISIS has demanded such a sum of money through a video. Although Japan has paid ransoms in the past, officials said that the nation was highly unlikely to pay such an unrealistic sum.
This video was hauntingly similar to the earlier videos of the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning.
The masked man was allegedly the same in all of these videotaped executions.
In the past two months, ISIS and its sympathizers have been credited with breaching the United States’ Central Command (CENTCOM) Twitter and YouTube accounts, carrying out attacks throughout the Middle East and Libya, killing hundreds of civilians in Iraq and Syria and recruiting more forces through widespread online propaganda.
The U.S. plans to deal with the crisis in a diplomatic manner, instead of using military confrontation. According to a New York Times video from Dec. 1, the U.S. is attempting to cripple ISIS’s oil smuggling trade through airstrikes on ISIS oil refineries. The refineries were feeding about $1 million per day to the organization.