On Tuesday, IS released a video threatening to kill the two men -- Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa -- unless Japan paid the group USD 200 million within 72 hours. Based on the time frame, the Japanese government estimated that the ultimatum expired at 2.50 PM. On Friday, and scrambled to secure the men's release.

Hours before the estimated deadline, an IS spokesman told Japanese media that the group would release a statement "soon" about the hostages.

When asked whether IS has been in negotiations with the Japanese government, the spokesman said he wouldn't comment. IS claims the ransom amount is the same as the financial aid pledged by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to countries affected by the militant group.

Japanese officials have repeatedly stressed that their military, which is constitutionally forbidden from taking action other than for self-defense, isn't involved in the international air strikes against IS positions in Syria and Iraq.

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