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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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Jordan ready to release convicted terrorist for captive pilot

IS threatened to kill the pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh

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AMMAN - The Jordanian government Wednesday said it was ready to release an Iraqi female convicted terrorist, Sajida al-Rishawi, if the Islamic State frees an air force pilot captured in Syria a month ago.

But there was no mention in the Jordan announcement of a Japanese hostage in the captivity of the brutal militant group.

The Islamic State had earlier threatened to kill the pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, and the Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto if Jordan doesn't release Rishawai who failed to explode her explosive vest when she was arrested in 2005 in a series of suicide bombing that killed some 57 people.

"Jordan confirms that it is completely prepared to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if Moaz al-Kasasbeh is released and his life is intact," said a statement released on Jordanian state television just before a deadline set by the extremists.

Mohammad Momani, the minister of state for media affairs, said that Jordan's priority was to ensure the life of the pilot.

Earlier, the Islamic State released a video featuring an appeal from Goto seeking Rishawi's release. The Japanese journalist said that he and the pilot would otherwise be killed.

"I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less," Goto said in the video, which was posted on Twitter accounts used by the Islamic State.

"Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they're responsible for the death of their pilot, which will then be followed by mine."

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist organizations, confirmed the authenticity of the video.

In Jordan, the government is also battling a public pressure seeking the release of the pilot who was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against the militants.

Several hundred people, including relatives of the pilot, gathered in front of the office of Jordan's prime minister urging authorities to meet the demands of Islamic State and release Rishawi.

Pilot's father, Youssef al-Kasasbeh, who was at the demonstration also repeated the call for the release of his son in exchange for Rishawi.

"Who is Sajida to us?" Kasasbeh said. "Sajida is a burden on us, let them release her. I am asking for the release of Sajida and all the prisoners, and the return of Moaz to us. Keeping her in prison is a burden on us."

Goto's mother also begged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to secure her son's release.

"Please save the life of Kenji," Junko Ishido said. "I call on you to work with all your strength in negotiations with the Jordanian government, until the very end."

Goto was one of the two Japanese hostages who were captured by the Islamic State in August. Haruna Yukawa has reportedly been killed by the extremists.

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