Clock Ticking, Japan Races to Save ISIS Hostages

Gov't says it's working to free Kenji Goto, Haruna Yukawa as ISIS deadline looms
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2015 7:56 AM CST
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacts at a meeting on two Japanese hostages taken by the Islamic State group, at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Jan. 21, 2015.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool)

(Newser) – On Tuesday, ISIS gave Japan 72 hours to pay $200 million in ransom to save the lives of freelance journalist Kenji Goto and self-employed contractor Haruna Yukawa—a demand that Yoshihide Suga, the country's chief Cabinet secretary, said yesterday the country wasn't going to meet. Now, with the deadline set to expire sometime tomorrow, Japan says it's working hard to free the hostages by other means. "This is a race against time, but the government will do everything it can," PM Shinzo Abe said in a press conference today, per the New York Times. However, Suga admits they haven't yet spoken to ISIS, AFP reports. "We have not been able to confirm their safety," he said at the presser.

ISIS has said that the ransom correlates with the funds that Abe has pledged to the international effort against ISIS. But Suga told reporters at the press conference that "they are totally wrong about our position," emphasizing that Japan's intervention was strictly a nonmilitary, humanitarian effort to assist countries dealing with refugees driven out by ISIS. "We wish not to fight against the world of Islam—we want to help the more than 10 million refugees in the region," he said. "We want them to understand this, and free the hostages immediately." Meanwhile, Japanese Twitter users are hitting back in a different way: by mocking the militants with a Photoshop meme under the loosely translated hashtag "ISIS Crap Photoshop Grand Prix," per Kotaku. For more on the unlikely relationship between Goto and Yukawa, click here.

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