Japan, Jordan Working to Free Kenji Goto and Downed Pilot

January 27, 2015  

Japan is working with Jordan to free both a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian pilot being held by Islamist extremists, officials said Tuesday, days after terrorists executed another hostage, according to AFP

The self-styled Islamic State group apparently beheaded Japanese contractor Haruna Yukawa last week after a 72-hour deadline for a $200 million ransom passed without payment. 

In a video released Saturday, the group said its demand had now changed and it wanted failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi released from death row in Jordan in exchange for the life of Kenji Goto, the remaining Japanese captive. 

Rishawi is a would-be Iraqi female suicide bomber who is on death row in connection with triple hotel bomb attacks in Amman that killed 60 people on November 9, 2005.

The Amman bombings were claimed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq who was killed in a US air raid there in June 2006.

His group was a precursor of the ISIS group, and Rishawi’s brother, Samir Atruss al-Rishawi, who was also killed in Iraq, was one of Zarqawi’s lieutenants.

Jordan’s King Abdullah pledged full cooperation with Japan to ensure Goto’s release, during a meeting with Japanese deputy foreign minister Yasuhide Nakayama in Amman, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

However, Japanese media reported that Amman is likely to prioritize the release of their pilot, Moaz Safi Yousef al-Kassasbeh,who was captured by ISIS in December.

The family of the pilot have called on the organization to release him.

Japan on Tuesday insisted that it was working to free both men.

“The release of the Jordanian pilot is an issue for Japan,” Nakayama told reporters in Amman.

“Both countries are closely cooperating towards the return of each of them to their countries.”

Tokyo is likely to face resistance from Washington over any kind of swap.

Asked about recent developments, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said a prisoner exchange was “in the same category” as paying a ransom.

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