17:54 GMT23 November 2020
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    US Secretary of Defense said that the United States' Defense Department pledged to cooperate closely with Japan over Islamic State militant group holding and threatening to kill two Japanese hostages.

    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.

    The press release followed the first conversation between Chuck Hagel and Gen Nakatani, during which the former congratulated the latter on his appointment.

    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.

    Related:

    Japan Asks Iran for Help in Freeing Two Japanese Hostages Held by IS
    Japan Hasn’t Spoken to IS Over Hostage Ransom as Execution Deadline Looms
    What We Know About Japanese Hostages From IS Video
    Tags:
    Daesh, hostages, Japan, US
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