Jordan says it is still trying to free a pilot held captive by ISIS
Repeated demands for ISIS to prove the pilot is still alive have not yielded any results
As Japan mourns following the apparent beheading of its journalist by ISIS, thousands of miles away, an anxious Jordan awaits the fate of its pilot.
Japanese journalist Kenji Goto went to Syria to tell the stories of lives torn apart by war.
He apparently became the latest foreigner killed by ISIS after a video distributed Saturday appears to show his beheaded body.
A week earlier, another video had shown Goto holding a photo of what appeared to be the corpse of his fellow Japanese captive, Haruna Yukawa, apparently beheaded by ISIS militants as well.
Japan and Jordan
Jordan and Japan got caught in the militants’ bloody crosshairs last month, when ISIS threatened to kill the two Japanese hostages unless Japan’s government paid a ransom of $200 million.
The militants revised their offer: Jordan should release female suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi.
Jordan countered with an offer demanding the release of Muath al-Kassasbeh, a Jordanian military pilot captured in Syria, in exchange for the suicide bomber. The militants have not said if that’s a consideration. ISIS said it would kill him if Jordan didn’t release al-Rishawi, a convicted terrorist.
Despite the counteroffers, the pilot’s fate remains unclear, and Jordan says repeated demands for the militants to prove the pilot is still alive have not yielded any results.
ISIS militants seized al-Kassasbeh was after his jet crashed in Syria in December. The 27-year-old holds the rank of lieutenant.
Militants say they captured him after he ejected from his crashing F-16 during U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near ISIS’ de facto capital, Raqqa.
Jordan’s role in the coalition is not popular in the nation, adding to the pressure for authorities to secure his release.
‘We will never, never forgive them’
“We are deeply saddened by this despicable and horrendous act of terrorism, and we denounce it in the strongest terms,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, according to broadcaster NHK. “To the terrorists, we will never, never forgive them for this act.”
“We are deeply saddened by this despicable and horrendous act of terrorism, and we denounce it in the strongest terms,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. “To the terrorists, we will never, never forgive them for this act.”
President Barack Obama described it as a “barbaric act” and said the United States stands in solidarity with Japan.
Japan not part of ISIS campaign
Unlike the United States, Britain and other allies, Japan is not involved in the military campaign against ISIS. But Japan has been providing humanitarian aid in the Middle East as ISIS continues its bloody quest to solidify an Islamic state across parts of Iraq and Syria.
And Japan’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid won’t stop, one top official said Sunday.
“We would like to expand our support for refugees,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. “We are surely going to have necessary support in terms of not yielding to terrorism.”
Race to save Goto’s life
Goto, 47, left Japan last fall, when his younger daughter was 3 weeks old. His wife, Rinko, first heard from his captors December 2.
On January 20, an ISIS video posted to social media showed Goto and Yukawa dressed in orange, kneeling in front of a masked man dressed in black.
In that video, the ISIS militant issued a $200 million ransom demand to the Japanese government in order to free the Japanese men within 72 hours. That’s the same amount of money Abe recently pledged for those “contending” with ISIS.
Days later, a new message surfaced featuring what appeared to be the corpse of Yukawa. And Goto would also be killed, the new message claimed, unless Jordan freed prisoner and convicted terrorist Sajida al-Rishawi.
When asked whether Japan negotiated over the ransom, Suga said no.
Jordan to keep working on pilot’s return
But pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh’s fate remains unclear. He was not mentioned in the latest video featuring Goto.
The pilot’s fate, on the other hand, remains unclear. He was not mentioned in the latest video showing Goto’s apparent beheading.
Jordan will continue trying to secure the release of the pilot, Al-Momani told Petra on Sunday. But he said officials are still seeking “proof of life” evidence that al-Kasasbeh is alive.
Until then, the wait continues.
Two nations, forever linked by the fate of their sons.
CNN’s Holly Yan and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.