Jordan Agrees to Free Female Jihadist In Exchange ISIS Hostage

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Updated at 6:50 pm (GMT+2): Jordan offered Wednesday to free a female jihadist in exchange for a Jordanian pilot held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which is threatening to execute the airman and a Japanese journalist.

It came after the parents of the hostages made last-ditch pleas for their lives ahead of a deadline set by ISIS for the release of the would-be suicide bomber.

"Jordan is ready to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot is freed unharmed," state television quoted a government spokesman as saying.

"From the start, the position of Jordan was to ensure the safety of our son, the pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh," it added.

It made no mention of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, although Russian media outlet Russia Today reported Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama as saying that Japan and ISIS have agreed on an exchange deal.
Nakayama said “good news” was to come soon on the situation .

ISIS, in a video released Tuesday, threatened to kill Kassasbeh and Goto unless Rishawi was freed within 24 hours.

The Japanese government said earlier it believed the ISIS deadline would expire at around 2:00 pm GMT Wednesday.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh wrote on Twitter shortly before 3:00 pm GMT that his country was still awaiting confirmation that the pilot was safe.

About an hour earlier he denied that Rishawi had already been freed.

Tokyo has been urgently seeking Jordan's help since an ISIS video released over the weekend said another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, had been beheaded.

Japan has sent Nakayama to Amman to head an emergency response team.

Rishawi has been on death row since 2006 for her part in triple hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60 people.

Kassasbeh was captured on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission over northern Syria as part of a US-led coalition against the jihadists.

Jordanian officials have noted that while the ISIS video threatened Kassasbeh's life, it only mentioned freeing Goto in exchange for Rishawi.

Jordanian pilot’s father: save my son at “any price”

Jordan is among a number of Arab and Western countries that have joined US-led air raids against ISIS, which has seized large areas in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The pilot's father, Safi Kassasbeh, begged the Jordanian government to save his son "at any price," while Goto's mother urged Tokyo to "please save Kenji's life."

An angry Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier blasted the militants' 24-hour deadline.

"This was an utterly despicable act, and I am appalled," Abe told reporters.

"The government, in this extremely serious situation, has been asking for the Jordanian government's cooperation towards the early release of Mr. Goto, and this policy remains unchanged," he told ministers.

Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, was at Japan's parliament Wednesday in a failed bid to meet with Abe. After being refused an appointment with the premier, she issued a plea for her son's life through assembled media.

"Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," Ishido said. "Please continue your utmost efforts in negotiating with the Jordanian government until the last minute. There is not much time left."

Her anguish was mirrored in Jordan, where Kassasbeh's father and several dozen members of the family's Karak tribe held a demonstration outside government headquarters in Amman late Tuesday.

They held his picture and a slogan reading: "We are all Maaz."

"We have only one request, Maaz's return at any price," Safi Kassasbeh was quoted by local media as saying.

After initially setting a $200 million (144 million euro) ransom for Yukawa and Goto's release, ISIS, which rules swathes of Syria and Iraq, changed tack and demanded Jordan free Rishawi.

In the latest video, respected war reporter Goto is seen holding a photograph of Kassasbeh, while a voiceover, purportedly spoken by the Japanese hostage, warns that Jordan is blocking his release.

However, any suggestion of a swap will likely face resistance from the United States.

Asked about recent developments, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier this week a prisoner exchange was "in the same category" as paying a ransom.

The ISIS group has previously beheaded five Westerners and committed numerous atrocities including mass executions, but the killing of Yukawa was the first time a Japanese has been targeted.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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