Jordan offers prisoner swap to ISIS to save pilot

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Jordan offers prisoner swap to ISIS to save pilot
The Washington Post and BBC are both reporting the identity of Jihadi John, arguably the world's most wanted man, is a Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi.
UPDATE: #JihadiJohn is West London computing graduate http://t.co/TH6ZPpl1b3 http://t.co/kTMsKJbReK
The identity of Jihadi John has been known to intelligence services since last summer: http://t.co/6puEOxZwHS http://t.co/MusulUPq8g
Jihadi John identified: Everything we know about Mohammed Emwazi so far http://t.co/GLkIJAMN9o http://t.co/Q87QV9rnNJ
Jihadi John is identified as former university student from respectable London family http://t.co/bShmmFfZHr http://t.co/UonzOXWmky
Watch: Who is Jihadi John? Our 60 second explainer: http://t.co/c4EW8WmWfi http://t.co/cro1x1FIFe
Japan is struggling to contact ISIS extremists who are holding two hostages. The ISIS extremists are holding the hostages ahead of a deadline for their execution.
The murder of a Japanese hostage by IS has been condemned internationally as a despicable act of terror. The one minute video of Kenji Goto's death emerged online last night and today officials have confirmed they believe it is genuine. Sky's Mark Stone reports.
People walk past a big screen reporting that a Japanese hostage was killed by the Islamic State in Tokyo on February 1, 2015. Japan said it was 'outraged' after the Islamic State group released a video purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
The mother of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto is grieving her son's apparent beheading by Islamic State.
Junko Ishido (R) mother of Kenji Goto, speaks to reporters while her husband Yukio Ishido (L) stands beside her at their home in Tokyo on February 1, 2015. Japan said it was 'outraged' after the Islamic State group released a video purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
Junko Ishido (C) mother of Kenji Goto, speaks to reporters while her husband Yukio Ishido (L) stands beside her at their home in Tokyo on February 1, 2015. Japan said it was 'outraged' after the Islamic State group released a video purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - JANUARY 17: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and his wife Akie arrive at the Alia International Airport for an official visit in Amman, Jordan on January 17, 2015. (Photo by Shadi Nsoor/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, one of two Japanese men being held by Islamist militants, gestures as she answers questions during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on January 23, 2015. Ishido pleaded for her son's release and urged Tokyo to pay a 200 million USD ransom hours before a deadline expires. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, one of two Japanese men being held by Islamist militants, answers questions during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on January 23, 2015. Ishido pleaded for her son's release and urged Tokyo to pay a 200 million USD ransom hours before a deadline expires. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, one of two Japanese men being held by Islamist militants, is surrounded by photographers at the beginning of a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on January 23, 2015. Ishido pleaded for her son's release and urged Tokyo to pay a 200 million USD ransom hours before a deadline expires. AFP PHOTO / Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Junko Ishido, the mother of one of two Japanese hostages held by Islamic State, pleads for help in Tokyo. She speaks at a news conference to appeal for journalist Kenji Goto's release. (Video: AP)
The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has demanded that ISIS release the two Japanese citizens they are holding hostage and has pledged to put people's lives as a top priority.
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 22: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Islamic law scholar and former Doshisha University professor Ko Nakata speaks during a press conference at teh Foreign Correspondents' Club on January 22, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. Nakata claimed he has got connections with the militant group, and able to intermediate the negotiation on the release of the 47-year-old freelance journalist Kenji Goto and 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, the founder of a private security company. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
#ISIS threatens to execute two #Japanese hostages unless ransom of $200 million is paid within 72 hours. http://t.co/Z8egkDNYNG
ALEPPO, SYRIA - JANUARY 20: In this file photo, dated as April 25, 2014, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto Jogo, captured by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and one of two Japanese hostages, is seen in Aleppo, Syria. (Photo by Ahmed Muhammed Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Isis demand $200m to spare two Japanese hostages in chilling new video http://t.co/CxKrYhijQH http://t.co/C132cl6vlh
Something about #ISIS video of 2 Japanese hostages. Note the shadows in different angles & differing colour contrast http://t.co/FmSDVH31zI
Purported ISIS video threatens beheading of Japanese hostages in lieu of $200M ransom: http://t.co/MVByEWPz6h http://t.co/qt0BTJGOZh
Full statement by #ISIS in latest video. Asking for 200 million dollars in 72 hours or 2 Japanese hostages killed. http://t.co/f6uf4LXz0O
The two Japanese #ISIS hostages are believed to be freelance journalist Kenji Goto (L) and Haruna Yukawa (R). http://t.co/Bmqssfnt8W
Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa was captured by #ISIS in summer last year via @ArtWendeley http://t.co/sa9Iq15JSH
Vice-Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama to be sent to Jordan to help coordinate ISIS hostage response.
#Japan’s government vows not to back down after #ISIS threatens to kill Japanese hostages - http://t.co/WtKhvzDIPc http://t.co/SaEUbbKlpz
ISIS militants' death threat stirs anger, shock in #Japan http://t.co/7pb2nQBRsn http://t.co/6WCsPHKEwy
People stage a silent rally for Japanese hostage Kenji Goto called 'Kenji, You will be alive in our memories' near the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on February 1, 2015. Some 200 people gathered the rally. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 1 denounced as 'heinous and despicable' the apparent beheading of a second Japanese hostage by the Islamic State group, as global leaders spoke out to condemn the militants. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Jordan offered a precedent-setting prisoner swap to the Islamic State group Wednesday in a desperate attempt to save a Jordanian air force pilot the militants purportedly threatened to kill, along with a Japanese hostage.

Late Wednesday, the pilot's father met with Jordan's king who he said assured him that "everything will be fine."

King Abdullah II faces growing domestic pressure to bring the pilot home. However, meeting the Islamic State's demand for the release of a would-be hotel bomber linked to al-Qaida would run counter to the kingdom's hard-line approach to the extremists.

Efforts to release the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto gained urgency with the release late Tuesday of a purported online ultimatum claiming the Islamic State group would kill both hostages within 24 hours if the al-Qaida-linked prisoner was not freed.

By Wednesday evening, there was no word on the fate of the hostages and no sign a swap was underway. In a possible indication of a holdup, Jordan's foreign minister wrote on his Twitter account that Jordan had not received evidence the pilot was alive and healthy.

The scope of a possible swap and of the Islamic State group's demands also remained unclear.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said Jordan is ready to trade the prisoner, an Iraqi woman convicted of involvement in deadly Amman hotel bombings in 2005, for the pilot. Al-Momani made no mention of Goto, and it was not clear if the swap proposed by Jordan would satisfy the hostage-takers.

Any exchange would set a precedent for negotiating with the Islamic State militants, who in the past have not publicly demanded prisoner releases. Jordan's main ally, the United States, opposes negotiations with extremists.

The release of Sajida al-Rishawi, the al-Qaida-linked prisoner, would also be a propaganda coup for the militants who have already overrun large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq. Jordan is part of a U.S.-led military alliance that has carried out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq in recent months.

Participation in the alliance is unpopular in Jordan, and the capture of the pilot has only exacerbated such sentiments, analysts said.

"Public opinion in Jordan is putting huge pressure on the government to negotiate with the Islamic State group," said Marwan Shehadeh, a scholar with ties to ultra-conservative Islamic groups in Jordan. "If the government doesn't make a serious effort to release him, the morale of the entire military will deteriorate and the public will lose trust in the political regime."

The pilot's family, meanwhile, is increasingly vocal in its criticism of the government.

Several dozen protesters gathered Wednesday outside King Abdullah's palace in Amman, urging the government to do more to win the release of the pilot.

"Listen, Abdullah, the son of Jordan (the pilot) must be returned home," the protesters chanted.

The pilot's father, Safi al-Kasaesbeh, was part of the group and was allowed into the palace, along with his wife, to meet Abdullah.

"The king told me that Muath is like my son and God willing everything will be fine," al-Kasaesbeh said afterward.

Earlier, he criticized the government's handling of the crisis.

"I contacted the Turkish authorities after I found that the Jordanian government is not serious in the negotiations," he told The Associated Press. "The government needs to work seriously, the way one would do to free a son, like the Japanese government does."

Jordan reportedly is holding indirect talks with the militants through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq to secure the release of the hostages.

In his brief statement, al-Momani only said Jordan is willing to swap al-Rishawi for the pilot, but not if such an exchange is being arranged. Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death for her involvement in the al-Qaida attack on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people.

In Tokyo, Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, appealed publicly to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "Please save Kenji's life," Ishido said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government until the very end to try to save Goto.

"Kenji has only a little time left," she said in a plea read to reporters. Ishido said both Abe and Japan's main government spokesman had declined to meet with her.

Later, a few dozen people gathered outside the prime minister's official residence, holding banners expressing hopes for Goto's release. "I have been trying to keep my hopes up and believe that Mr. Goto will return. I have this faith within me," said Seigo Maeda, 46, a friend of Goto.

The militants reportedly have killed a Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, and the crisis has stunned Japan.

Muath al-Kaseasbeh, 26, was seized after his Jordanian F-16 crashed in December near the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. He is the first foreign military pilot the militants have captured since the coalition began its airstrikes in August.

This is the first time the group has publicly demanded the release of prisoners in exchange for hostages. Previous captives may have been freed in exchange for ransom, although the governments involved have refused to confirm any payments were made.

Goto, a freelance journalist, was captured in October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue Yukawa, 42, who was taken hostage last summer.

The Islamic State group broke with al-Qaida's central leadership in 2013 and has clashed with its Syrian branch, but it reveres the global terror network's former Iraqi affiliate, which battled U.S. forces and claimed the 2005 Amman attack.

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Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, and Elaine Kurtenbach, Kaori Hitomi, Emily Wang, Koji Ueda and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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