Efforts to free Japanese journalist and Jordanian pilot comes after ISIL threatens to kill the two within 24 hours.by Al Jazeera
Japan is seeking help from the Jordanian government after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL) group released a new video threatening to kill Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh held hostage within 24 hours.
Japanese and Jordanian officials were reportedly holding talks over ISIL’s demand for the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman convicted for her part in multiple bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people, in exchange for Goto and al-Kaseasbeh.
An angry Japanese prime minister on Wednesday slammed as “utterly despicable” the threat to kill both hostages.
“The government, in this extremely severe situation, has been asking for the Jordanian government’s cooperation towards the early release of Mr Goto, and this policy remains unchanged,” Shinzo Abe said.
After initially demanding a $200 million ransom for the release of the two Japanese men, the group said it wanted Jordan to free Sajida al-Rishawi, a would-be suicide bomber who has been on death row since 2006.
Goto was abducted by fighters in October last year after venturing into Syria on a mission to free his friend Haruna Yukawa.
Yukawa was apparently executed last week after Japan failed to meet an initial $270m ransom demand by Friday.
Parents of hostages plea
Goto’s mother Junko Ishido read to reporters a plea to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday to “Please save Kenji,” which she said she had sent earlier in the day.
She begged Abe to work with the Jordanian government to try to save Goto, saying “Kenji has only a little time left.”
Safi al-Kaseasbeh, the father of the Jordanian hostage, made a last-ditch appeal for Jordan “to meet the demands” of ISIL to secure his release.
Several hundred people, including relatives of the Jordanian pilot, gathered in front of the office of Jordan’s prime minister late on Tuesday, urging the authorities to meet the ISIL demands and release al-Rishawi to save the young pilot’s life.
A member of Jordan’s parliament said the country was in indirect talks with the fighters to secure the hostages’ release.
Bassam Al-Manasseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg News that the negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan will not negotiate directly with ISIL and will not free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto only.
Manaseer’s comments were the strongest suggestion yet that authorities in Jordan and Japan may be open to a prisoner exchange, something that would go against the policy of the kingdom’s main ally, the US, which opposes negotiating with armed groups.
Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama was in Amman to coordinate hostage-release efforts with Jordan, but refused comment on details of the talks early on Wednesday.