Kenji Goto

Japanese hostage’s mom makes last-minute appeal to ISIS as deadline passes

TOKYO — Junko Ishido shook and struggled to hold back tears as she talked about her hostage son, while camera shutters whirred.

“Time is running out. Please, Japanese government, save my son’s life,” she said Friday to a packed room of journalists, at times wiping her tears with a white handkerchief. In Japanese fashion, she apologized repeatedly for “all the trouble” her son, Kenji Goto, was causing the country and its people by being a hostage of the Islamic State group.

In a somewhat rambling message, Ishido said: “My son is not the enemy of the Islamic State. He went over there all by himself, simply hoping to rescue his friend.”

Ishido, 78, said she felt angry that her son had left for Syria just two weeks after his wife delivered a baby in search of the friend, Haruna Yukawa, but given his character, she understood why.

The two Japanese men are captives of the Islamic State group, threatened with death unless their government pays a $200 million ransom.

“Even before he could walk, even when he was just tottering on his feet, whenever he could be with other children, he would always show great kindness to them,” she said. “So I believe he always cared about other people.”

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.

The posting which appeared Friday shows a clock counting down to zero along with gruesome images of other hostages who have been beheaded by the Islamic State group.

The militant group gave Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a 72-hour deadline – which expired Friday – to pay a $200 million ransom for the two hostages. The posting on a forum popular among Islamic State militants and sympathizers did not show any images of the Japanese hostages.