The mother of Kenji Goto, one of the Japanese men Islamic State militants are threatening to kill unless the government pays a $200 ransom, has begged for her son's life, insisting the 47 year old possesses a "gentle heart" and is "not the enemy."
On Friday morning, Junko Ishido launched an emotional appeal stating, "I say to you people of the Islamic State, Kenji is not your enemy. Please release him. Kenji was always saying 'I hope to save lives of children on battlefields.' He was reporting war from a neutral position."
According to reports, Goto, a respected journalist and devout Christian, was captured in Syria in late October while on a mercy mission to rescue Haruna Yukawa, a military contractor, who was captured in August.
"Kenji left for the IS with a gentle heart hoping to save a life of his Japanese colleague," Ishido added. "He didn't care about his safety because he believed he and people of IS would be able to understand each other, as members of the global community."
She also revealed that Goto was a new father, as his wife had given birth two weeks ago when the two spoke on the telephone for the first time.
But as of Friday afternoon, after the deadline for a $200 million ransom in exchange for the men's safety passed, Japan had heard nothing from extremists.
"There has been no message," Tokyo's top spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters."The situation remains very severe, but the government is making its utmost efforts, asking for cooperation from many countries and heads of ethnic groups."
Earlier that day, Islamic State militants posted a warning online, warning that the "countdown has begun" for the killings. The posting shows a clock ticking to zero and gruesome images of other hostages who have been beheaded by the Islamic State, including American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British hostages David Haines and Alan Herring.
The $200 million ransom demanded was the same amount Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, offered last week in humanitarian aid to countries in the Middle East fighting ISIS. Mr. Suga has said that the government was trying to contact the group to explain that its aid offer is nonmilitary and not aimed at "killing Muslims," as the militant in the video claimed.
USA Today reports that Tokyo is currently under pressure from Britain and the United States to stand firm on the ransom, as both countries have a policy of never paying ransoms.
However, when asked by a journalist if she thought Tokyo should pay the ransom, as it had in previous hostage situations, Goto's mother answered emphatically, "Yes, I very much hope so."
"Japan has maintained a friendly relationship with Islamic nations. The time remaining is scarce. I beg you Japanese government officials, please save Kenji's life."