The Japanese government has confirmed the identity of two Japanese hostages held captive by the Islamic State militants, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.
"Comprehensively judging from various information such as consultation with their families, we think the two men are Mr. Haruna Yukawa and Mr. Kenji Goto, and they are highly likely captured by Islamic State militants," the top government spokesman told a press conference. Suga also said the government will continue to analyze the video.
The online video, posted on Tuesday by extremists of the Islamic State, showed the two Japanese men kneeling on a rocky hillside with a militant standing between them, who threatened to kill the two unless Japan pays a ransom within 72 hours.
Goto, 47, is a freelance journalist. He went missing in October shortly after posting on his Twitter account that he was in Syria. Last August, Islamic State militant group abducted 42-year-old Yukawa, who was working as private military company operator.
"We urge the group to release the hostages immediately. During his trip to the Middle East, Prime Minister Abe announced Japan's humanitarian assistance such as support for refugees, and it is non-military support. Our aid is not aimed at killing Muslims," Suga said.
Last week, Abe pledged in Cairo to provide around USD 200 million on stepping up efforts against the Islamic State militants, including extending support to refugees from Iraq and Syria.
The government set up a task force in the risk management center of the prime minister's office as well as in the Jordanian capital of Amman to handle the situation. Tokyo has also sent Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama to Jordan to resolve the crisis. Tokyo also sought help from the US and other nations taking part in air strikes on areas controlled by the Islamic State.
Abe is scheduled to return home later in the day after a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. He also visited Egypt, Jordan and Israel in his six-day trip to the Middle East.