The Islamic State terrorist group (IS, formerly ISIS) said in a video it will execute two Japanese nationals unless a $200-million ransom is paid within 72 hours.
The threat came on Tuesday in a video published on several Islamist websites. The militant group said they are demanding the money because Japan had pledged to pay the same amount to the US-led campaign against IS.
The video features two Asian men wearing orange fatigues standing on their knees and a masked man in black holding a knife, reading the demand. The hostages are Kenji Goto Jogo and Haruna Yukawa, according to the video.
Goto is an independent journalist, who has been covering events in Syria, as shown by his Twitter account and website.
A 42-year-old Japanese private military contractor believed to be Yukawa was kidnapped in Syria in August, according to AP
The terrorist is said to be a British man, who was featured in previous execution videos released by IS.
The Islamic State has published several videos depicting executions of its Western hostages during its recent advances in Iraq and Syria.
Among them are US aid worker Peter Kassig executed in November 2014, UK aid worker Alan Henning murdered in October 2014, UK aid worker David Haines killed in September 2014 and American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff slain in August 2014.
Previously, however, the demands were political in nature, with financial ransom demands reportedly being negotiated out of the public eye
The groups?s ransom policy has changed recently, as evidenced by the release of Italian hostages, female humanitarian workers Vanessa Marzullo and Greta Ramelli, who were taken in July near Syria?s Aleppo.
The two young women were released shortly after a video showing them making a pledge to the Italian government was published by the jihadists. The Italian authorities have said nothing publicly about how the hostages were freed, but some Arab media suggested that a ransom of 12 million euros was paid for them.
The issue of paying ransom to militants has become particularly sensitive as the US is pressuring its European allies not to give way to or facilitate such transactions. Americans are the majority of the Western hostages executed on camera by the IS so far.
Since 2008, various terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda have netted at least $125 million from kidnap ransoms, mostly from European governments, according to a report published last year in the New York Times.