Loved ones plead for ISIL hostages

Prisoner swap would run counter to gov­ern­ment’s stance on ex­trem­ism

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - WORLD -

The fa­ther of a Jor­da­nian fighter pi­lot and the wife of a Ja­panese jour­nal­ist held by the Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (ISIL) pleaded for their loved ones’ lives af­ter a pos­si­ble prisoner swap wasn’t car­ried out by a dead­line of sun­set Thurs­day.

The ex­trem­ists had de­manded that Jor­dan re­lease a fe­male al-Qaida prisoner from death row, and they pur­port- edly threat­ened in an au­dio mes­sage to kill the air­man if she was not freed by the dead­line.

Af­ter sun­down in the Mid­dle East, there was no word on the fate of Lt. Muath al-Kaseas­beh and jour­nal­ist Kenji Goto, and the fam­i­lies’ ag­o­niz­ing wait dragged on.

“We re­ceived no as­sur­ances from any­one that he is alive,” Jaw­dat al-Kaseas­beh, a brother of the pi­lot, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “We have no clue about where the ne­go­ti­a­tions stand now. We are wait­ing, just wait­ing.”

The pos­si­bil­ity of a swap was raised Wed­nes­day when Jor­dan said it was will­ing to trade Sa­jida al-Rishawi, the alQaida prisoner, for the pi­lot.

How­ever, the au­dio mes­sage pur­port­edly posted by ISIL only said the pi­lot would be killed if al-Rishawi was not de­liv­ered to the Turk­ish bor­der by the dead­line. There was no men­tion of Goto and no word on whether the pi­lot would be traded for the woman. The au­then­tic­ity of the record­ing could not be ver­i­fied in­de­pen­dently by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Jor­dan’s gov­ern­ment spokesman, Mo­hammed al-Mo­mani, sig­nalled that, in any case, a swap was on hold be­cause the hostage-tak­ers had not de­liv­ered proof the pi­lot is still alive.

Al-Rishawi, 44, faces death by hang­ing for her role in a sui­cide bomb­ing, one of three si­mul­ta­ne­ous at­tacks on Am­man ho­tels in Novem­ber 2005 that killed 60 peo­ple. She sur­vived be­cause her belt of ex­plo­sives didn’t det­o­nate. She ini­tially con­fessed, but later re­canted, say­ing she was an un­will­ing par­tic­i­pant.

Al-Rishawi, who is from the Iraqi city of Ra­madi, has close fam­ily ties to the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida, a pre­cur­sor of ISIL. Three of her broth­ers were al-Qaida op­er­a­tives killed in fight­ing in Iraq.

Jor­dan has faced tough choices in the hostage drama.

NASSER NASSER/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Safi al- Kaseas­beh, cen­tre, fa­ther of Jor­da­nian pi­lot Lt. Muath al- Kaseas­beh, who is held by ISIL, reads a state­ment for the me­dia urg­ing his son’s cap­tors to have mercy on a fel­low Mus­lim and spare his life, in Am­man, Jor­dan on Thurs­day.

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