The family of Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist taken hostage by a group claiming to be the Islamic State, received an e-mail in November demanding about ¥2 billion in ransom, according to government sources.
The government was aware of the e-mail, but refrained from making it public at the strong request of his family, the sources said.
According to several sources, the 47-year-old Goto left for Syria to rescue Haruna Yukawa, 42, who was taken captive by the Islamic State in August.
An antigovernment activist in Syria who served as a guide for Goto was quoted as saying that the Japanese journalist said on the morning of Oct. 25 near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo that he wanted to interview people living under the control of the radical militant group.
The guide opposed this plan, so Goto headed for Islamic State-controlled territory alone. The guide said he lost contact with Goto from that point.
Goto's family became unable to reach him after that and contacted the Japanese government. An e-mail addressed to a member of Goto's family arrived from a person who claimed to belong to the Islamic State in November. The e-mail said Goto was being held hostage and demanded the family pay about ¥2 billion in ransom.
The family informed the government of the e-mail. Since then, the government has been trying to identify the sender with cooperation from overseas intelligence agencies, as it is believed Goto was taken hostage by the militant group after entering Syria.