Jordan has agreed to a prisoner exchange with IS militants who are holding one of the country’s pilots and a Japanese journalist hostage.
The Islamic State yesterday gave Jordan and Japan 24 hours to agree to free Sajida al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber and the wife of a now dead Iraqi militant leader.
Officials in Jordan said the country would release Rishawi within hours, in exchange for the pilot, Moaz al-Kaseasbeh, who was shot down over ISheld territory in Syria last year.
“Jordan is ready to release the Iraqi prisoner,” Information Minister Mohammed al-Momani, said.
There was no immediate mention of Kenji Goto, the Japanese journalist held by IS.
A photograph and voice recording of Goto was sent to his wife on Friday night by the group.
In it, he holds a photograph of the decapitated body of his friend and fellow hostage Haruna Yukawa, and says the militants will release him in exchange for Rishawi.
It seems likely that he, too, will be exchanged, though there was no immediate confirmation of this from Japanese officials.
However, earlier the Japanese government had indicated that a deal might be on the cards.
“We hope the two countries can join hands to realise a future in which the Jordanian pilot and Goto return safely to their countries with smiles,” Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama said.
The 24-hour deadline was set on Tuesday, with IS releasing a new video in which Goto was seen holding a photograph of the pilot.
He says he has 24 hours to live, and his fellow captive less time.
The sequence of videos, apparently more hurriedly put together than the Hollywood-style productions showing British and American captives last year, mark a change of tactic from IS.
Previously, they either negotiated behind the scenes for ransom payments, later releasing a number of European journalists.
Alternatively, they launched highprofile horror movies, clearly designed to instil shock in enemies abroad and fear nearer home.
The Jordanians have conducted prisoner exchanges before with jihadist militants.
However, Japan has a mixed record, and Abe said he was making Goto’s safety his first priority while also threatening a hard line against IS.
– The Telegraph