Japan said Thursday it had yet to contact the Islamic State militant group as it demanded an immediate release of two Japanese hostages.japan

“We do not know,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference when asked about the safety of the hostages.

The militant group threatened in a video posted on the internet Tuesday to kill the two – Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa – unless a 200-million-dollar ransom payment was made within 72 hours.

Japan believes the ransom deadline is 2:50 pm (0550 GMT) on Friday.

Suga said Tokyo has not received any messages from the militant group since the release of the video.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who cut short his visit to the Middle East and returned to Tokyo Wednesday, said the government is making all-out efforts to achieve the release of the two.

Japanese government officials were scrambling to establish communication with the group through various channels to urge them to release the two unharmed.

Abe and his cabinet ministers held talks with foreign leaders and ministers in an effort to save the captives.

“Japan will never give in to terrorism and will contribute to international efforts to fight terrorism,” Abe was quoted as telling Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during a phone conversation on Thursday.

Japanese media reported the wife of Goto, a freelance journalist, received emails demanding a ransom as early as November.

The email messages said Goto was in captivity and demanded a ransom of about 2 billion yen (17 million dollars), major daily Asahi reported, citing unnamed government sources.

The emails were from a person claiming to be a member of the group.

The wife started receiving the emails after she lost contact with Goto following his arrival in Syria in late October, Asahi said.

Ko Nakata, an Islamic law scholar, told a news conference in Tokyo that he is able to contact the Islamic State group and wants to “do everything possible to save the hostages.”

“I don’t want (the captors) to harm the hostages at the 72-hour deadline. I want them to wait,” said Nakata, a former professor at Doshisha University.

“Seventy-two hours is too short. I’m ready to go to negotiate,” he added.
GNA

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