World

Japan's Abe 'fighting against time' to seek release of hostages held by Islamic State

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. An online video released Tuesday purported to show the Islamic State group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless they receive a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a joint press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. An online video released Tuesday purported to show the Islamic State group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages unless they receive a $200 million ransom in the next 72 hours. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)  (The Associated Press)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that he was expending maximum efforts in a "tough fight against time" to free two hostages the Islamic State group is threatening to kill within 72 hours.

Abe returned to Tokyo from a Middle East tour and told reporters he was consulting with leaders in the region. He said he instructed officials to use all possible diplomatic channels to seek the hostages' release.

Abe and other government officials have not said directly whether or not Japan was considering paying the $200 million in ransom being demanded for the captives, Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa.

Earlier, the government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, confirmed that Japan believed the threat to be authentic and emphasized that Japan's aid to the region was not a threat to Muslims.