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Japan faces deadline to free IS hostages

Updated: 2015-01-23 10:31

Japan faces deadline to free IS hostages

Islamic State group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages on Jan 20, 2015. [Photo/IC]

TOKYO - The deadline for paying ransom for two Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State group was fast approaching early Friday with no signs of a breakthrough.

With time running short, the mother of one of the hostages, journalist Kenji Goto, appealed for an end to hatred and destruction.

"My son is not an enemy of the Islamic State," Junko Ishido said in a tearful appearance in Tokyo. She said she was astonished to learn from her daughter-in-law that she had a newborn baby, and said the child needs his father. In very Japanese fashion, she apologized repeatedly for "all the trouble my son has caused."

The status of efforts to free the two men was unclear, with hours to go before the presumed deadline.

The national broadcaster NHK reported that it had received a message from Islamic State "public relations" saying that a statement would be released sometime soon.

Lacking clout and diplomatic reach in the Middle East, Japan has been scrambling for a way to secure the release of the two men, one a journalist, the other an adventurer fascinated by war. Two Japanese who said they have contacts with a leader in the Islamic State group offered Thursday to try to negotiate, but it was unclear if the Japanese government was receptive to the idea.

The militants threatened in a video message to kill the hostages within 72 hours unless they receive $200 million. Based on the video's release time, that deadline would expire sometime Friday.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Thursday that Japan was trying all possible channels to reach those holding the hostages - Goto, 47, and 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security company.

Goto's mother said her son went to Syria to try to secure a friend's release, corroborating comments by others who said he was trying to rescue Yukawa, who was taken hostage earlier.

"Ever since before he learned to walk, my son has been kind to all of the children he knew," said Ishida, adding that she was "confused by my sorrow."

"My son felt he had to do everything in his power to try to rescue a friend and acquaintance," she said.

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