Japan seizes journalist's passport over Daesh fear

Purports to show the group threatening to kill two Japanese hostages that the militants identify as Kenji Goto Jogo, left, and Haruna Yukawa, right, unless a $200 million ransom is paid within 72 hours. Japan's Foreign Ministry's anti-terrorism section has seen the video and analysts are assessing it, a ministry official said. (AP)

Tokyo defended Monday its confiscation of the passport of a Japanese journalist planning to travel to Syria, as the country reels from the execution of two citizens by militants.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government took travel documents away from freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto, 58, for his own safety, after learning of his plan to cover refugee camps in the war-torn country.

"Daesh has expressed its resolve to continue killing Japanese," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular press briefing.

"If a Japanese national enters Syria... we have assessed that there is a high risk that the person would face immediate danger to his life, like being captured by Daesh and other militants," he said.

Suga said the government had given consideration to both the principle of a free press and the government's responsibility to protect the safety of Japanese nationals in confiscating the document.

Japan reacted in horror to the beheadings of war correspondent Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa. Their murders have provoked a measure of soul-searching over the direction of Japanese diplomacy.

However, the crisis appears to have done little to dent the popularity of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which inched up 1.4 points to 54.2 percent in a national poll taken Friday and Saturday by Kyodo News.

Some 60.8 percent of those questioned said they supported the government's handling of the hostage crisis.

The telephone survey had valid responses from 1,015 people.

The Japanese government had sought help from Jordan to rescue the two Japanese hostages, who were shown in a video released by the militant group late January with a demand for a $200 million ransom.

Days later, the group released a video of Goto holding a photo of Yukawa's headless body, and changed their demand to the release of a female militant on death row in Jordan.

Amman responded by demanding the release of Jordanian airman Maaz Al Kassasbeh, who was held captive by the militant group.

The extremist group killed all three men.

In response, Jordan executed two Iraqi militants including the female would-be suicide bomber, and accelerated its air strikes on the daesh group.

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