MOSCOW, January 21 (Sputnik) — Earlier on Tuesday, the Islamic State demanded a $200 million ransom in a video that showed a black-masked militant wielding a knife over two hostages, thought to be Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security firm, and Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist, both of whom were abducted in Syria last year.
Kenji Goto is a devout Christian and a well-known journalist recognized for working in conflict zones. Haruna Yukawa is a businessman with a troubled past who wrote in his blog that he wanted to travel to world’s most dangerous areas in order to turn his life around, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Kenji Goto was born in 1967 in Japan’s northern city of Sendai. He worked at a television production agency before setting up his own company, Independent Press, in 1996. Major Japanese television networks have presented his work and he has authored several books, including a book on child soldiers and survivors of the Rwandan civil war.
In an interview last May with Christian Today, Goto said he wanted to let the world know of the hardships suffered by people trying to lead regular lives in tough conditions.
“I work in many harrowing places that could be life-threatening, but I believe God will always help me, in ways I do not know,” he was quoted as saying.
Based on accounts written in his blog, Yukawa appears to have gone through some difficult time over the past decade. In a late 2013 post, he said he attempted to commit suicide in the mid-2000s after his business failed terribly and he was left homeless for a while.
“He’s a quiet, pleasant guy and a bit of a dreamer. He told me he wanted to start a private military company,” said Nobuo Kimoto, a 70-year-old former business partner of Yukawa.
In a blog post from May 2014, Yukawa said he met Goto in Syria. Their friendship grew. The two are seen together in a photo posted in Yukawa’s blog in July 2014, which said they were in Iraq at the time, reports Wall Street Journal.
In August, Yukawa appeared in a video posted online in which militants put a knife to his neck. After seeing news of the video, Goto told his family that he was going to the Middle East to rescue Yukawa, according to NHK.
Footage from Oct. 25 aired by NHK showed Goto speaking to a camera before entering Raqqa, Syria.
“It will be very dangerous. Whatever happens, I won't hold any grudges against the Syrian people,” he says in the video.
The Islamic State has given the Japanese government 72 hours to pay $200 million in ransom for the lives of Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa.