Tokyo (AsiaNews) - As the deadline expired, the "countdown has begun," said a message posted by the Islamic State a few hours ago.
Warning that they are ready to execute the two Japanese hostages they abducted in Syria, the hostage takers blame the Japanese government for lying about what they are doing to save them.
A few hours before the ultimatum ended, the mother of one of the two hostages, Kenji Goto, made a moving appeal for her son's release.
"Kenji is not an enemy of the Islamic State," said Junko Ishido, 78. "Please free him," she told around 100 reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.
"I cannot fathom what has been happening around me over the past three days," she explained. "I have been in sheer sadness and weeping all the way through."
The Christian clergyman who heads the church Goto attends had said as much. On the day the video was released, Hiroshi Tamura, pastor at the Chofu church said, "He has a strong sense of justice," and "has always been conscious of vulnerable people, including children."
Meanwhile, Japan's small Muslim community - about 100,000 - has come out for the hostages' release.
From the start of the crisis, Muslim religious leaders slammed the abduction and death threats.
Today, an estimated 600 Muslims visited the country's largest mosque, Tokyo Camii, a little after noon, for a prayer service.
A sheik sent from the Turkish government delivered a sermon on "the dignity of life."
Meanwhile, the Japanese government has come under scrutiny, with some criticising it for not doing enough to free the hostages.
Citing online Islamic State statements accusing Shinzo Abe of lying, Japanese media have called on the government to come clean on the issue. For its part, the government has rejected the accusations.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was trying to contact the hostage-takers but, by the same token, it would not give in to terrorism.