Loved ones plead for ISIL hostages
Prisoner swap would run counter to government’s stance on extremism
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.
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.