Beirut: The Islamic State group has released a message purportedly by Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, extending the deadline for Jordan's release of an Iraqi would-be hotel bomber linked to al-Qaida.
Jordan had offered a precedent-setting prisoner swap to the Islamic State group yesterday in a desperate attempt to save a Jordanian air force pilot the militants purportedly threatened to kill, along with a Goto. The audio recording released late yesterday, in English, says the Jordanians must present Sajida al-Rishawi at the Turkish border by sunset today, or Jordanian pilot Mu'as al-Kasaseabeh will be killed.
The Associated Press could not independently verify the contents of the recording which was distributed on Twitter by IS-affiliated accounts. Yesterday, 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 hardline approach to the extremists. Efforts to release al-Kaseasbeh and 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.
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. 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 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 US-led military alliance that has carried out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq in recent months.