Jordan has demanded that the Islamic State group release both Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and captured Jordanian air force pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh, whose jet fighter crashed in Syria in December, Kyodo News reported Tuesday, quoting a senior Jordanian lawmaker.
Kyodo quoted Bassam al-Manaseer, chairman of the Arab International Affairs Committee, as saying the best scenario may be for Jordan to release Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi would-be suicide bomber whose explosives failed during a coordinated attack on hotels in Amman in 2005, in exchange for both hostages.
The agency quoted him as saying Amman has been in contact with the militants through a third party.
Al-Manaseer, citing knowledge of Jordanian diplomatic policy, said it would be impossible for Amman to release al-Rishawi in exchange for only Goto’s release.
Also on Tuesday, Tokyo Broadcasting System cited Jordanian government sources to report that Islamic State is now demanding that Jordan release 27 prisoners, including Ziad al-Karboli, an Iraqi man sentenced to death for a deadly terror attack in Jordan in 2005.
It was unclear whether the purported demand was made in direct connection with negotiations over the fate of Goto. However, it is a factor that could complicate talks to free him.
Extremists have threatened to kill Goto if Amman does not release al-Rishawi.
Jordan’s King Abdullah said Monday that the captive pilot is the nation’s No. 1 priority, calling al-Kasasbeh “the son of Jordan and its armed forces,” according to The Jordan Times.
Later in the day, a high-ranking official in Tokyo suggested it would be Jordan that makes the ultimate decision on any hostage swap, not Japan.
“Japan is incompetent as a party” to negotiate with the Islamic State group, the official said, using markedly blunt language.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Tokyo is not in a position to dictate what form of hostage swap it wants.
“We are just in a position to ask for Jordan’s cooperation,” the official said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on the Kyodo report.
“We are not aware of (it). We are just making our utmost efforts to release Mr. Goto as quickly as possible,” he told a news conference. “We are seeking (Jordan’s) cooperation, and the situation is fluid. We, the government, are not in a position right now to comment” on what specifically Tokyo has requested from Amman.
In a related development, Arab ambassadors to Japan released a statement Tuesday, condemning the murder of Haruna Yukawa and calling for Goto’s immediate release.
“The Council of Arab Ambassadors accredited to Japan would like to condemn in the strongest terms and express outrage over the brutal murder of a Japanese hostage committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” the statement read.
It also said the council is “looking for immediate release of the hostage Mr. Kenji Goto to come back to his family and Japan safely.”