Islamic State demands $200m for lives of two Japanese hostages

Five ethnic Chechens from Russia have been arrested in France, including one with a cache of explosives, as four other men appeared at a Parisian court, the first to face charges over recent attacks.

Islamic State demands $200m for lives of two Japanese hostages

France has been on high alert since three days of terror left 20 people dead in Paris, including the three gunmen, earlier this month.

The arrests came France’s prime minister urged his nation to do some soul-searching about France’s deep ethnic divisions and declared that fighting hatred, anti-Semitism, and racism was a top priority, especially in France’s impoverished housing projects, home to many immigrants.

Beziers mayor Robert Menard confirmed the five arrests in Beziers and on the outskirts of Montpellier. He said the man arrested in Beziers had been a resident “for some time”.

Midi Libre, the local paper, said an explosives cache was found in Beziers near a stadium but prosecutor Yvon Calvet said it was not immediately clear whether a terror attack was planned.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the men in court yesterday were suspected of providing logistical support to Amedy Coulibaly, one of the terrorists killed by police, and requested theybe detained longer on weapons and terrorism charges.

Coulibaly shot dead a policewoman on the outskirts of Paris and then killed four hostages in supermarket before being shot dead by police. It is not clear whether the four suspects in court yesterday were involved in plotting the attacks or even aware of Coulibaly’s plans.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State group threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless they receive $200m in 72 hours, demanding the ransom yesterday from Japan’s premier during his visit to the Middle East. Prime minister Shinzo Abe vowed to save the men, saying: “Their lives are the top priority.”

Abe declined to discuss whether Japan would pay the ransom for Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, though Japan’s armed forces generally only operate in a self-defence capacity.

In the video, the two men appear in orange jumpsuits with a rocky hill in the background, a masked militant dressed in black standing between them. The scene resembles others featuring the five hostages previously beheaded by the Islamic State group, which controls a third of Iraq and Syria.

“To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,500km from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade,” says the knife-brandishing militant, who resembles and sounds like a British militant involved in other killings.

“You have proudly donated $100m to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims... and in an attempt to stop the expansion of the Islamic State, you have also donated another $100m to train the [apostates].”

The militant’s comments likely refer to money Abe pledged while in Egypt to help Iraq’s government and aid Syrian refugees.

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