Japan officials tight-lipped on Islamic State extremists hostage

January 28, 2015 12:54 pm
Japanese officials were tight-lipped yesterday as secret talks in
Jordan sought to secure the freedom of a Japanese journalist and a
Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State extremists and purportedly
threatened with death within 24 hours.
The global efforts to free
Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian Lt. Mu’ath
al-Kaseasbeh gained greater urgency with the release of the apparent
ultimatum from the Islamic State group.

A screen grab from a YouTube video of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto
holding a photograph of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh. Photo / AFP /

In the message, the
extremists say the two hostages will be killed within 24 hours – late
today time – unless Jordan frees Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman
sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist
attack on a hotel that killed 60 people.
The pilot’s father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, made a last-ditch appeal for Jordan “to meet the demands” of the Islamic State group.
people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that
the safety of Mu’ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of
Mu’ath means chaos in Jordan,” he told The Associated Press.
About 200 relatives of the pilot demonstrated outside the prime
minister’s office in the Jordanian capital of Amman, chanting
anti-government slogans and urging it to meet the captors’ demands.
member of Jordan’s parliament said the country was in indirect talks
with the militants to secure the hostages’ release. Bassam Al-Manasseer,
chairman of the foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg the
negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in
Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan won’t negotiate directly with IS and
won’t free Mr al-Rishawi in exchange for Mr 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 U.S., which
opposes negotiating with extremists.
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
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also did not comment
when asked while on his way to a meeting on the crisis. Mr Abe will
likely face questions about the crisis in parliament today.
Mr Goto’s mother expressed hope for his release, but also desperation.
“What has my child done wrong?” she said. “There’s no more time.”
hostage saga involving the two Japanese nationals has stunned Japan and
triggered criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over his government’s
handling of the crisis. The militants have reportedly beheaded one
Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa.
The video matched a message
released over the weekend, though neither bore the logo of the Islamic
State group’s al-Furqan media arm. The weekend video showed a still
photo of Mr Goto holding what appears to be a photo of Mr Yukawa’s body.
It retracted a demand for $200 million in ransom for the two Japanese,
made in an earlier online message.
The AP could not independently verify any of the videos. However,
several militant websites affiliated with the Islamic State group
referenced the latest video and posted links to it on Tuesday.
message holds the Jordanian government responsible for delaying the
release of al-Rishawi and says that unless she is freed within 24 hours,
the pilot, followed by Mr Goto, will be killed, adding that this would
be the group’s last message.
“I have only 24 hours left to live and the pilot has even less,” according to the audio, purportedly from Mr Goto.
is unclear why the group released only audio from Mr Goto. Messages
from other Western hostages held by the group have been read by the
captives on camera.
After the video’s release late on Tuesday,
Japanese officials held emergency meetings. Government spokesman
Yoshihide Suga said he had seen the video, but did not comment on its
“In this extremely tough situation, we are
continuing as before to request the cooperation of the Jordanian
government to work toward the immediate release of Mr Goto,” Suga said.
the Jordanian pilot for the first time, on Monday Nakayama expressed
hopes the two hostages would return home “with a smile on their faces.”
al-Kaseasbeh has been held by after his Jordanian F-16 crashed near the
group’s de facto capital of Raqqa in December. It wasn’t immediately
clear when the pilot’s possible release had entered into the
The 26-year-old Jordanian is the first foreign
military pilot to fall into the extremists’ hands since an US-led
coalition that includes Jordan began its aerial campaign against the
Islamic State group in August.
This is the first time that the
group has publicly demanded the release of prisoners in exchange for
hostages. Previous captives are thought to have been released in
exchange for ransom, although governments involved have refused to
confirm any payments were made.
Mr Goto, a freelance journalist,
was seized in October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue Mr
Yukawa, 42, who was captured by the militants last summer.
officials have indicated they are treating the video released over the
weekend as authentic and thus accepting the likelihood that Mr Yukawa
was dead.
Securing the release of Mr al-Rishawi would be a major
propaganda coup for the Islamic State and would allow the group to
reaffirm its links to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The mother of another
Jordanian prisoner, Ziad al-Karboli, told the AP on Tuesday that her
family was told that the Islamic State group also was seeking his
release as part of a swap. It was unclear whether it was related to a
possible deal involving the Japanese hostage.
Al-Karboli, an aide to a former al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, was sentenced to death in 2008 for killing a Jordanian citizen.

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