Jordan Willing to Swap Prisoner for IS Hostage

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VOA News: Jordan’s information minister says his government is ready to trade a jailed terror suspect for a Jordanian pilot being held by Islamic State militants.

Mohammad al-Momani made the announcement on state television Wednesday, as a deadline for the possible execution of the pilot and a Japanese hostage approached.

Al-Momani said if the pilot, Lieutenant Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed, Jordan will hand over Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman convicted of participation in a 2005 terror attack that killed 60 people in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

The reported deadline of late Wednesday afternoon local time has since passed with no definitive information on the status of the two hostages available. Some sources are reporting that the deadline for the handover of al-Rishawi has been extended to sunset Thursday. The reports are based on a purported audio message recorded in English by Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

Kasaesbeh was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against the Islamic State group.

Al-Momani did not mention Goto, a Japanese journalist, who has also been threatened with execution. Japan has requested help from Jordan to secure his release.

The Jordanian government is under growing pressure at home to win the release of the pilot, who hails from an important Jordanian tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

The pilot’s father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, beseeched his government late Tuesday “to meet the demands” of the Islamic State group.

Jordan’s main ally, the U.S., opposes negotiating with extremists.

Japanese hostage’s mother begs for his release

Speaking before Jordan’s announcement Wednesday, Goto’s mother made a plea for his release.

Junko Ishido publicly read a request directed at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “do everything in your power” to obtain her son’s release. She said her son is not an enemy of Islam.

In Japan, a spokesman at Abe’s office said he had no immediate comment on the Jordanian statement.

On Saturday, the Islamic State released a video showing Goto holding pictures of another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, apparently beheaded.

In the video, a man’s voice directly addresses Abe, accusing him of responsibility for Yukawa’s death.

The Islamic State group, which controls a third of Syria and Iraq, threatened last week to behead the Japanese hostages unless it received a $200 million ransom.

According to Reuters, officials involved in the crisis say Tokyo knew for months
that Islamic State militants were holding two Japanese men captive, but appeared ill-prepared when the group set a ransom deadline and purportedly killed one of them.

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.

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