Japan condemns new hostage video as deadline looms

2015-01-28 06:55

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today condemned as “despicable” an Islamic State video threatening to kill a Japanese hostage within 24 hours.

An audio message on the video posted online late yesterday appeared to be the voice of journalist Kenji Goto pleading for the Jordanian and Japanese governments to carry out a prisoner exchange to save his life.

“I feel strong resentment toward such an extremely despicable act,” Abe said today.

In the recording, Goto said the jihadist group would kill him and a Jordanian Air Force pilot captured in Syria unless a convicted terrorist held by Jordan, Sajida al-Rishawi, was freed within 24 hours, which would be late today in Japan.

Iraqi al-Rishawi is a would-be suicide bomber who was sentenced to death for taking part in a series of attacks in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2005. She said her bomb had failed to detonate, broadcaster Al Jazeera reported.

“Her for me, a straight exchange. Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they are responsible for the death of the pilot which will then be followed by mine. I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less,” Goto says in the audio recording.

On Sunday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the beheading of Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported yesterday that Jordanian authorities were considering releasing al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto and the pilot, First Lieutenant Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh.

“Japan has sought cooperation from Jordan in an extremely severe situation for Mr Goto’s swift release, and this policy will not change,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said today.

The pilot’s father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, made a last-ditch appeal for Jordan “to meet the demands” of the Islamic State group.

“All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Mu’ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Mu’ath means chaos in Jordan,” he said.

About 200 relatives of the pilot demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office in the Jordanian capital of Amman, chanting anti-government slogans and urging it to meet the captors’ demands.

A member of Jordan’s Parliament said the country was in indirect talks with the militants to secure the hostages’ release. Bassam al-Manasseer, chairperson of the foreign affairs committee, said that the negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan won’t negotiate directly with the Islamic State and won’t free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto only.

Manasseer’s comments were the strongest suggestion yet that authorities in Jordan and Japan may be open to a prisoner exchange, something that would go against the policy of the kingdom’s main ally, the United States, which opposes negotiating with extremists.

Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama was in Amman to coordinate hostage-release efforts with Jordan, but refused to comment on details of the talks early today.

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