Prayers offered for Japanese hostages as Islamic militants' ransom deadline passes



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TOKYO (AP) — Prayers are being offered at Tokyo's largest mosque for two Japanese hostages threatened with beheading by Islamic militants who have demanded a $200 million ransom for their release.

Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have 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 (shin-zoh ah-bay) 72 hours to pay the ransom, and the deadline has expired.

The status of efforts to free the men is unclear. A government spokesman is using every channel it can find to win the hostages' release, including local tribal chiefs, but there has been no direct contact with the captors.

Abe has been meeting with his National Security Council on the crisis.

Goto's mother made a tearful appeal for his rescue. She says she was astonished and angered to learn from her daughter-in-law that Goto had left for Syria less than two weeks after his child was born in October to try to rescue Yukawa.

%@AP Links

021-c-10-(Elaine Kurtenbach, AP correspondent)-"gaining their release"-AP correspondent Elaine Kurtenbach reports Japanese authorities say they haven't heard anything about the state of the two hostages being held. (watch for dating)) (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *021 (01/23/15)££ 00:10 "gaining their release"

022-c-09-(Elaine Kurtenbach, AP correspondent)-"we know of"-AP correspondent Elaine Kurtenbach reports the deadline the Islamic State group gave for getting a $200 million ransom for two hostages has passed. (watch for dating)) (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *022 (01/23/15)££ 00:09 "we know of"

023-c-13-(Elaine Kurtenbach, AP correspondent)-"protect these people"-AP correspondent Elaine Kurtenbach reports there's no word on the fate of two people taken hostage by the Islamic state group. (watch for dating)) (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *023 (01/23/15)££ 00:13 "protect these people"

024-c-11-(Elaine Kurtenbach, AP correspondent)-"of the hostages"-AP correspondent Elaine Kurtenbach reports there are pleas for the Japanese officials to do something to get the two back. (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *024 (01/23/15)££ 00:11 "of the hostages"

135-r-11-(Sound of Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (yoh-shee-HEE'-deh SOO'-gah) answering reporter in Japanese, saying there has been no particular contact from Islamic State group, speaking with reporter)--Sound of Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga telling reporters there has been no contact from the Islamic State group regarding extending the deadline for paying a ransom for two hostages. COURTESY: Japan's NTV ((mandatory on-air credit)) (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *135 (01/23/15)££ 00:11

025-a-07-(Muhammed Rasit Alas, imam-director, Tokyo Camii and Turkish Cultural Centet, at mosque prayer service)-"the terrorist group"-The Imam-Director of the Tokyo Camii and Turkish Cultural Centre, Muhammed Rasit Alas, says prayers are being said for the two Japanese citizens being held by Islamic State group. ((note quality of audio)) (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *025 (01/23/15)££ 00:07 "the terrorist group"

026-a-07-(Sandar Basara, Turkish Muslim, in AP interview)-"soon as possible"-Turkish Muslim Sandar Basara says he fears the hostage incident could tarnish the image of Muslims in Japan. (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *026 (01/23/15)££ 00:07 "soon as possible"

027-r-03-(Sound of prayers, at mosque in Tokyo)--Sound of prayers at a mosque in Tokyo, being said for the safe release of two Japanese citizens being held hostage by the Islamic State group. (23 Jan 2015)

<<CUT *027 (01/23/15)££ 00:03

APPHOTO BKKS101: Junko Ishido, mother of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto who was taken hostage by the Islamic State group, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. Ishido said she was astonished and angered to learn from her daughter-in-law that Goto had left less than two weeks after his child was born, in October, to go to Syria to try to rescue the other hostage, 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa. "My son is not an enemy of the Islamic State," she said in a tearful appearance in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) (23 Jan 2015)

<<APPHOTO BKKS101 (01/23/15)££

APPHOTO XEH104: Muslims offer Friday prayers at Tokyo Camii, the largest mosque in Japan, in Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. The deadline for paying ransom for two Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State group is fast approaching Friday with no signs of a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) (23 Jan 2015)

<<APPHOTO XEH104 (01/23/15)££

APPHOTO XEH101: Muslims residing in Japan offer Friday prayers at Tokyo Camii, the largest mosque in Japan, in Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. The deadline for paying ransom for two Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State group was fast approaching early Friday with no signs of a breakthrough. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) (23 Jan 2015)

<<APPHOTO XEH101 (01/23/15)££

APPHOTO KSX108: Japan's Government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga ponders during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo Friday, Jan. 23, 2015 as militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have posted an online warning that the "countdown has begun" for the group to kill the pair of Japanese hostages. Suga reiterated Friday that Japan was trying all possible channels to reach those holding the hostages, and that its policy of providing humanitarian aid for those displaced by conflict in the Middle East was unchanged. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) (23 Jan 2015)

<<APPHOTO KSX108 (01/23/15)££

APPHOTO XEH112: A TV news program reports two Japanese hostages held by the Islamic State group in Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have posted an online warning that the "countdown has begun" for the group to kill a pair of Japanese hostages. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) (23 Jan 2015)

<<APPHOTO XEH112 (01/23/15)££

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