Jordan's government has said it is prepared to swap a jihadist woman prisoner for a Jordanian pilot held by Islamic State militants, but did not reveal whether Japanese hostage Kenji Goto hostage would be included in the exchange.
According to reports, ISIS has threatened to execute both men if Jordan does not free the captive female militant, a member of Al Qaeda who participated in a series of deadly terrorist attacks in 2005. She survived because her explosive belt failed to detonate, authorities say.
Mohammed Al Momani, Jordan's minister for media affairs and communications, said in a statement that Jordan "is ready to release the Iraqi prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed,'' according to Jordan's state-run news agency, Petra.
Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot, was captured by the militants in late December when his his F-16 fighter jet crashed in Raqqa, Syria. Jordan is part of the U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since September.
A video released on Tuesday from ISIS-linked Twitter accounts depicted what appeared to be Goto, the Japanese journalist, holding a picture of the captive pilot. The journalist said that within 24 hours, if Jordan's government failed to hand over the imprisoned militant, both he and the pilot would be killed.
"I've been told this is my last message, and I've also been told that the barrier of extracting my freedom is now just the Jordanian government delaying the handover of Sajida," Goto purportedly says in the video, directed toward his family. "Tell the Japanese government to put all their political pressure on Jordan. Time is now running very short. It is me for her. What seems to be so difficult to understand?"
Goto says that any delays by the Japanese "will mean they're responsible for the death of their pilot, which will then be followed by mine. I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less. Please don't leave us to die."
A previous video released by the militants showed Goto with a picture of a beheaded Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, according to the SITE Intelligence group, which monitors militant web traffic. In the video, Goto said the Islamic State had replaced its original demand for a $200-million ransom for the Japanese citizens for the release of Rishawi.
On Tuesday, a high-ranking Japanese official, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed frustration at Japan's "incompetence" in handling the hostage crisis and suggested that it would be the Jordanian government that decided any hostage swap.
Tokyo can only "ask cooperation of the Jordanian government" in order to save Goto's life, he said, according to the Japan Times.
Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, reiterated on Wednesday morning that while he will "do all he can" to free Goto, Japan will never give in to terrorism.
"We the government, facing an extremely tough situation, have asked for cooperation from the Jordanian government. . . . This policy will remain unchanged," Abe told his ministers. "We feel strong indignation over this extremely vicious act. We resolutely condemn it."