Japan condemns 'despicable' Islamic State hostage threat

Japanese hostage Kenji Goto says he will be killed unless Jordan releases a failed suicide bomber

Kenji Goto
(Image credit: Facebook)

A video in which Islamic State militants threaten to kill two hostages unless Jordan releases a would-be suicide bomber has been condemned as "despicable" by Japan's prime minister.

The footage appears to show Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who has been held captive since October, and an image of Muadh al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot held by IS since his aircraft crashed over eastern Syria in late December.

Goto, 47, says he and Kasasbeh will be killed in less than 24 hours unless Jordan frees failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi from death row.

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"She [Rishawi] has been a prisoner for a decade and I've only been a prisoner for a few months. Her for me, a straight exchange," he says.

Goto appeared in another audio clip a few days ago, declaring that his 42-year-old friend Haruna Yukawa had been beheaded after Japan failed to pay a $200m ransom before a 72-hour deadline set by IS.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country was working with Jordan to secure their release.

"This was an extremely despicable act and we feel strong indignation. We strongly condemn that," he said. "While this is a tough situation, we remain unchanged in our stance of seeking help from the Jordanian government in securing the early release of Mr Goto."

Kyodo news agency suggests that Jordan might be willing to release Rishawi, an Iraqi who is on death row in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 suicide bombing that killed 60 people. A group of attackers bombed a string of hotels, but Rishawi appeared to leave a key part of her suicide bomb in their car and survived.

Any deal between Jordan and IS would "anger the US, which opposes prisoner swaps and paying ransoms to terrorist groups", says The Guardian.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says that "despite Mr Abe promising an all-out effort to get Kenji Goto released, it's pretty clear that the power to do so now lies not in Tokyo but in Amman".

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