Abe phones Egypt, Turkey, Jordan leaders for help on hostage crisis

Abe phones Egypt, Turkey, Jordan leaders for help on hostage crisis
Map of Iraq and Syria showing the control zones. The caliphate, or Islamic state, extends from Aleppo province in north-western Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq. The Islamic State (IS) said the “caliphate” – an Islamic form of government last seen under the Ottoman empire – now extends from Aleppo in northern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq, which have come under its control. Graphics adapted from BBC.

The government is seeking cooperation from the United States and European and Middle Eastern nations to solve a hostage crisis triggered by a group believed to be the radical Islamic State, which has threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless a $200 million ransom is paid.

The government identified the Japanese men who appeared in a video posted by the group as Haruna Yukawa, 42, who was captured by the Islamic State in August last year, and Kenji Goto, a 47-year-old journalist.

"We believe they are Mr. Haruna Yukawa and Mr. Kenji Goto after comprehensively taking into account various pieces of information, [including] their identification by their families, who saw the video," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

According to officials, the government has contacted the United States and Britain, citizens of which have been executed by the Islamic State, in an effort to bring the crisis to an early conclusion.

It has also contacted Middle East nations neighbouring Syria, where Yukawa and Goto are believed to have been abducted.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was in Israel as part of his Middle East tour, made telephone calls to the leaders of Jordan, Turkey and Egypt between late Tuesday and early Wednesday to seek help in the crisis.

"Japan will not give in to terrorism and will contribute to the fight against terrorism with the international community," Abe was quoted as saying to the leaders.

Jordan's King Abdullah II replied that his country would gather as much information as possible and cooperate in every possible way. The Japanese government has set up a regional headquarters to deal with the crisis in Jordan.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Abe he would extend every possible support to Japan, while Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his nation would make efforts to have the hostages released as soon as possible.

Yasuhide Nakayama, state minister for foreign affairs, arrived in Amman before dawn Wednesday to take charge at the regional headquarters. "Prime Minister Abe instructed me to put human life first," Nakayama told reporters. "We will do our utmost to gather information."

The United States and a number of European nations have said they would take joint steps with Japan, which expressed its resolve to fight terrorism.

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