Jordan has pledged to help Japan as the latter grapples to resolve the hostage crisis with the ruthless Islamic State, which is believed to have already beheaded one Japanese hostage and has now demanded the release of al-Qaeda terrorist Sajida al-Rishawi, who is jailed in Jordan.
Jordan is reportedly mulling a swap to free not only Japanese journalist Kenji Goto but also Jordanian pilot First Lieutenant Muath al Kasaesbeh, whose plane was allegedly shot down by ISIS last month. Kasaesbeh is currently at the risk of be executed by the militants.
Jordanian officials Bassam Al-Manaseer, chair of the Arab International Affairs Committee, and Ali Bani Ata, chair of the Japan-Jordan parliamentary friendship league, told Japan's Kyodo News Agency that Amman may comply with the ISIS demand to release al-Rishawi if the group releases Goto and Kasaesbeh.
The two members of Jordan's Parliament also said that the country had established contact with the Islamic State through a third party, after the terror group asked for the release of al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman on death row for her role in the 2005 bombings in Jordan that killed at least 57 people.
Jordan's King Abdullah had told a Jordanian newspaper that saving Kasaesbeh "tops the country's priority".
The 27-year-old pilot was captured by ISIS militants last month after they claimed to have shot down his coalition plane, following which they paraded him in his underwear, his face seen bloodied in the photos that surfaced online.
The Japan Times also reported that the militants are likely to be seeking a 'two-for-two' prisoner swap for the release of the two hostages in return for al-Rishawi and Iraqi terrorist Ziad Al Karboli.
A video released by an ISIS-affiliate account on Saturday purported to show Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa beheaded, and though the group dropped its earlier demand of $200 million ransom amount, it put out the new demand through the remaining Japanese hostage, Goto.
"They no longer want money. So you don't need to worry about funding terrorists. They are just demanding the release of their imprisoned sister Sajida al-Rishawi. It is simple. You give them Sajida and I will be released," Goto was heard saying in the video. "You bring them their sister from the Jordanian regime and I will be released immediately. Me for her."
However, the United States has taken objection to any such release of terrorists. Jen Psaki, a state department spokeswoman, said the release of terrorists falls in "the same category" as paying a ransom.