In a new message uploaded online today, a Japanese hostage of the terror group ISIS purportedly arranges a prisoner swap in which he would go free in exchange for a convicted terrorist held by Jordan -– or a Jordanian pilot held by ISIS will be killed.
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In an audio recording, allegedly made by captive Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, Goto says that if al Qaeda convict Sajida al-Rishawi “is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset” then Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh “will be killed immediately.” The recording refers to sunset in Mosul, Iraq, meaning mid-morning east coast time.
Earlier today Jordan’s government said it would go through with a prisoner swap with the terror group ISIS in order to get its captured pilot back, but a top official of the Middle Eastern nation says the government has not received proof that he’s still alive. Goto’s message did not say the Jordanian pilot would be freed in the newly-proposed arrangement.
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh posted a message on Twitter saying the government asked for, but has not received, “evidence of health and safety of the hero, Muath.” Al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS last December after his aircraft was shot down.
Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman, has been on death row in Jordan since she confessed to her role as a would-be suicide bomber in a string of al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed dozens.
Prior to reports of Jordan’s willingness to accept the trade, Middle East expert Jon Alterman told ABC News that by asking for, and potentially gaining al-Rishawi’s release, ISIS is attempting to bolster its long-held goal of being seen as a proper nation-state on a geopolitical scale.
“What it represents is ISIS again trying to act like a real country. It’s a small group of outlaws trying to engage in governments,” Alterman, head of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.
ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded dozens of captives, including a handful of Western journalists and aid workers, sometimes after making demands of their governments.
The Japanese hostage Goto was not mentioned in statements made by Jordanian officials about a potential deal today, despite reports that Japanese officials have been working closely with Jordan to find ways to free both hostages.
“Please save Kenji’s life,” Goto’s mother said in her own video, released Tuesday. “Kenji has only a little time left.”