A deadline set by ISIS to pay a $200 million ransom to prevent the execution of two Japanese hostages passed early Friday with no word on the fate of the captives.
The Islamist terror group on Tuesday released a video making the demand and showing Kenji Goto, a journalist and his friend Haruna Yukawa, both clad in orange garb and being threatened by a militant dressed in black and brandishing a knife. Based on the release time associated with that video, the 72-hour deadline was set to expire at 2:50 p.m. Tokyo time (12:50 a.m. ET).
The Associated Press reported that militants affiliated with ISIS had posted an online warning Friday that the "countdown has begun" for the group to kill the hostages. NBC News could not immediately independently verify the report.
Japan has joined other major industrial nations of the Group of Seven in opposing ransom payments. ON Thursday, an official said Japan was struggling to contact ISIS extremists ahead of the deadline.
Goto’s mother Junko Ishido also made a public plea for his safe return on Friday, saying, "Kenji is not the enemy of the Islamic State. Please release him,” referring to another name by which ISIS is known.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier pledged about $200 million in non-military assistance for countries battling ISIS. A guide said Goto, a journalist, had gone to Syria to look for Yukawa who had vanished in August, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
ISIS has previously executed American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines. In each instance the group announced the murders by releasing videos showing their beheaded bodies.
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— Arata Yamamoto and Phil Helsel
The Associated Press contributed to this report.