WASHINGTON, January 23 (Sputnik) – The United States' Defense Department pledged to cooperate closely with Japan over Islamic State (IS) militant group holding and threatening to kill two Japanese hostages, US Secretary of Defense told Japanese Defense Minister.
"Secretary Hagel told Minister Nakatani that we stand in solidarity with Japan regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant's threat to murder two Japanese hostages, and pledged to continue to coordinate closely," Thursday's US Defense Department press release said.
Earlier this week, Islamic State militants demanded a $200-million ransom in a video that showed a black-masked man wielding a knife over two hostages. The hostages are 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. The ransom matches the amount of money promised by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as nonlethal aid package to countries fighting IS.
Following the release of the video, the US State Department strongly condemned the threat to murder the two Japanese citizens and called for their immediate release, as well as release of all other hostages held by the jihadists.