Japanese PM asks for help from Erdoğan and Sisi to free hostages in Syria

Japanese PM asks for help from Erdoğan and Sisi to free hostages in Syria

Japanese PM asks for help from Erdoğan and Sisi to free hostages in Syria

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a meeting on two Japanese hostages taken by the Islamic State group, at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. AP Photo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought help from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to free two hostages snatched by Islamist militants who are demanding $200 million for their lives.

According to Turkish presidential sources speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Erdoğan assured Abe in a telephone call that Turkey would share all its intelligence on two Japanese nationals kidnapped by terrorists in Syria.

Abe, who rushed home from a tour of the Middle East, also said he asked for the help of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

In footage posted on extremist websites on Jan. 20, a black-clad militant brandishing a knife addresses the camera in English, standing between two hostages wearing orange jumpsuits identified as journalist Kenji Goto and military contractor Haruna Yukawa.

“You now have 72 hours to pressure your government into making a wise decision by paying the $200 million to save the lives of your citizens,” he says.

A defiant Abe said he would not bow to “terrorism,” as he took charge of the crisis Japan was thrust into with the release of the chilling video, apparently showing the two Japanese men kneeling in the desert in Syria or Iraq.

“This is a very tough race against time, but the government will do its utmost,” he told reporters. “I have ordered the government to use all diplomatic channels and routes possible... to ensure the release of the two people.”       

“Japan will never yield to terrorism. Japan will do its best in the battle against the cowardice of terrorism, hand-in-hand with the international community,” Abe said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has murdered five Western hostages since August last year, but this is the first time it has threatened Japanese captives.