Japan government scrambles to make hostage crisis progress

Japan government scrambles to make hostage crisis progress

The government on Saturday remained committed to efforts to reaching a breakthrough as a 72-hour deadline to pay ransom for two Japanese men held captive by a group claiming to be the Islamic State passed.

No word on the fate of the hostages - Kenji Goto, 47, and Haruna Yukawa, 42 - from the militant group was confirmed as of Saturday evening after the deadline, considered to be 2.50pm Friday Japan time, expired. The government is stepping up efforts to gather information from such sources as other countries while monitoring information on the Internet.

In Amman, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama, who heads an on-field task force, has made every effort to secure the captives' freedom.

"We'll never give up. My mission is to have the two return home," Nakayama told reporters Friday night in Amman. "The situation remains severe, but we are scrutinizing information and maintaining close contact with the Japanese government."

On Saturday morning, the Foreign Ministry convened a task force meeting attended by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Vice Minister Akitaka Saiki and other senior officials. Asked by a reporter about developments of the hostage crisis, Kishida walked on in silence with a stern look on his face.

After the meeting, Kishida said: "I have nothing to report for now. I've instructed the officials to keep their focus on the matter."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was at the Prime Minister's Office on Saturday morning to receive updates on the crisis, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was standing by at his residence.

In the ministry's operations room, where senior officials were coming in and out from early Saturday morning, intelligence-gathering work, including monitoring Arabic-language sites and social media, was under way.

Social media spread word

Movements to disseminate online messages mainly via social networking service websites are spreading to demand the Islamic State release Goto and Yukawa.

Many people fearful of the hostages' fates are enthusiastically spreading the messages to save the two Japanese.

Before dawn on Wednesday, the Japan Visual Journalist Association (JVJA) carried English and Arabic translations of its statement in Japanese about the hostage incident on its official website. The association comprises photo and video journalists.

The English statement says, "Kenji Goto is also one of the few journalists who has reported ... on the suffering of civilians in war-torn Iraq and Syria," and "We appeal to you [the Islamic State] not to kill the two Japanese."

Naomi Toyoda, a 58-year-old journalist who has engaged in news-gathering activities together with Goto in the past and is a member of JVJA, asked one of his friends to translate the statement into Arabic.

"I wanted to convey our desire to the Islamic State at any cost," he said.

Toyoda also carried the statement on his own Facebook page and asks viewers to re-post it on the Internet and other media, saying he wants viewers to help spread the message to members of the Islamic State.

The aim is to have members and supporters of the Islamic State notice the messages, as the members have placed importance on the influence of the Internet.

As of Saturday, about 450 people had re-posted the statement on the Internet. The message spreading was also reported on by a Iraqi TV station.

On Facebook, online bulletins titled, "Save Kenji Goto," have been opened.

The Japanese government provided an explanation in Arabic on Tuesday about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's announcement of $200 million aid for measures to deal with the recent situation related to the Islamic State.

The explanation in Arabic, displayed on the Foreign Ministry's website, says the aid is for nonmilitary purposes and mainly for humanitarian aid.

 

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