Prayers said for Japanese hostages held by militants

Published 10:10 am Friday, January 23, 2015

TOKYO — Prayers were offered Friday at Tokyo’s largest mosque for two Japanese hostages threatened with beheading by Islamic militants who had demanded a $200 million ransom for their release.

Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group posted an online warning that the “countdown has begun” for the extremists to kill 47-year-old Kenji Goto and 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa. The extremists gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 72 hours to pay the ransom, and the deadline expired Friday.

The posting, which appeared on a forum popular among Islamic State militants and sympathizers, did not show any images of the hostages, who are believed to be held somewhere in Syria.

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The status of efforts to free the men was unclear. Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga was asked about the latest message and said Japan was analyzing it.