Japan attempting to verify new IS audio's authenticity

Tokyo: Japan's foreign ministry was Thursday desperately trying to verify the authenticity of the another audio message purportedly from the Japanese hostage Kenji Goto who has been held by the Islamic State (IS) group, Xinhua
japan attempting to verify new is audio s...
IANS January 29, 2015 13:34 IST

Tokyo: Japan's foreign ministry was Thursday desperately trying to verify the authenticity of the another audio message purportedly from the Japanese hostage Kenji Goto who has been held by the Islamic State (IS) group, Xinhua reported.

The message in the audio demanded an Iraqi terrorist on death row in Jordan be brought to the Turkish border in exchange for a Jordanian pilot's life.

The IS had previously made it known in an audio-video featuring Goto that his life would not be spared if Sajida al-Rishawi, who was convicted for her role in a series of bombings in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005 which killed around 60 people, was not released. The suicide bomber was captured and imprisoned as her suicide vest failed to detonate.

In the latest audio message, Goto can be heard insisting that a Jordanian pilot, 1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, who IS captured after his plane crashed in December, will be killed imminently if Sajida is not brought to the Turkish border by sunset Thursday Mosul time.

But the potential prisoner's swap deal seems to have become somewhat confused, with Goto saying in a previous video as he held the slain body thought to be of another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, who IS beheaded for Japan not paying a ransom of $200 million within a 72-hour deadline set by the militant group.

The government in Tokyo and representatives in Jordan have both struggled to make connections with the militant group in a bid to negotiate the safe release or push for an extension of the hostages, but IS unceremoniously went ahead and beheaded Yukawa, blaming Shinzo Abe and Japan for its financial support of anti-IS countries.

The goal posts seem to keep shifting as this saga unfolds, with Goto originally saying it would be a straight swap, him for Sajida.

But the Jordanians are hoping to release the safe release of their pilot, and for a while, although it looked as though negotiations were shaping up to be a three-way swap, with both Goto, the pilot and the Iraqi would be suicide bomber walking free.

Rumors are rampant in the Jordanian capital with some media outlets stating that Sajida has already been released, while others said the swap had nothing to do with Goto, but had been brokered between Jordan and IS, for the exchange of only the pilot and the Iraqi female on currently on Jordanian death row.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and relevant ministries have been working through the night to try and separate the facts from the hearsay, with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida telling a news conference Thursday that the government had still failed to make strides to contact IS through its diplomatic channels in Jordan.

"We haven't received any information pointing to particularly major developments," Kishida said, referring to a possible exchange between Goto and Sajida.

In response to the Jordanian officials who have said on a number of occasions that they stood ready to release Sajida if the pilot was released, Kishida said, "There are indeed many pieces of information swirling. We need to engage in careful and meticulous scrutiny."

Despite the video Tuesday being tacked with an audio from Goto calling on behalf of IS for a one-on-one exchange between him and Sajida, as per IS requests, with Goto simply stating, "Her for me. A straight swap", a number of Jordanians are now shifting their priority over to the rescuing of their own pilot and it remains to be seen how and if this three-way prisoner exchange will pan out.

"I feel great outrage at this extremely vicious act. We condemn this, Abe said. "It's an extremely tense situation, but the government has been seeking cooperation from the Jordanian government for the release of Goto as soon as possible, and we will continue to do so," the Japanese prime minister said.

In addition, Goto's mother Junko Ishido, 78, also made a tearful plea for her son's release at a press conference in the parliament Wednesday, saying that she wished, "he could set foot in his homeland again."

She stated again that her son had no ill feelings towards IS in his job as a freelance war journalist, or otherwise.

In a personal letter to Abe, Ishido also implored the prime minister to "save her son's life."

Having beheaded Yukawa, IS dropped their initial ransom demand of $200 million, the same amount Abe pledged in humanitarian aid to countries fighting against the militant group as well as to the Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have fled the war zones and have been left displaced.

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