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Jordan offers swap to secure freedom of IS-detained pilot

By Mohammad Ghazal , Muath Freij , Khetam Malkawi , Raed Omari - Jan 28,2015 - Last updated at Jan 28,2015

AMMAN — Although Jordan expressed readiness to set free a convicted terrorist in return for the freedom of a Jordanian pilot taken hostage by the so-called Islamic State (IS), the latter did not respond to the proposition but sent another ultimatum to the pilot’s family, hours after a first deadline set by the group ended.

Jordanians were following news closely on Wednesday, waiting for word on the fate of captured pilot Muath Kasasbeh and the Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

Meanwhile, Safi Kasasbeh, the father of captured pilot, said the King received him Wednesday evening, reassuring him that the authorities were doing their best to free his son.

Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani said on Wednesday that the government offered a swap involving. Kasasbeh and Sajida Rishawi, an Iraqi woman on death row in the Kingdom for her involvement in Amman’s 2005 terror attacks.

The brief statement did not mention Japanese journalist Goto, whom IS claimed Tuesday it would release in return for Rishawi’s freedom, or he and Kasasbeh would be executed within 24 hours.

He added that since the beginning, Jordan’s priority has been and is still to save Kasasbeh.

The deadline that IS set to keep the Jordanian pilot alive and free the Japanese hostage was over on Wednesday at around 16:00hrs. 

Later in the day Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh denied reports claiming that Rishawi had already been freed and left Jordan for the swap. 

“To those who say that Rishawi was released and left Jordan, this is untrue. We have asserted from the beginning that her release is conditional to the release of our son Muath,” Judeh wrote on his Twitter account, referring to the pilot who was captured by IS on December 24 after his F-16 crashed in Raqqa, Syria.

Judeh’s statement was confirmed when IS reportedly called one of Kasasbeh’s uncles threatening that they would kill both hostages if Jordan does not release Rishawi, the sister of a militant leader.

Saed Dalaeen, one of the relatives of the pilot, read a statement which tribe members claim to have received via phone from IS.  

The message read “Sajida should have been released and with us this morning.”

“Place pressure on your government to release Sajida or you will see the dead bodies of Muath and the Japanese hostage,” it read. 

“Place pressure for the life of your son. We will not accept any conditions.”  

After reading the statement, Dalaeen called on Jordanians to show solidarity with the pilot and his family. 

He said the pilot needs everyone’s support at this stage. 

Safi, the pilot’s father, said there were few hours before Muath is killed. 

“I call for all possible efforts for the release of my son,” he told The Jordan Times Wednesday. 

Later Wednesday, dozens of relatives and supporters of Muath gathered near the Royal Palace in Dabouq, holding pictures of Muath and calling for his release. 

Issam Kasasbeh, one of the participants, said: “We want our son back. We also want the Japanese hostage released.”

“We believe the government did not do its best. Now they are threatening to kill our son,” he added.

Despite attempts by The Jordan Times to obtain a statement from the government about the IS message and if the government will set the terrorist free, officials declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the case, “which is being handled by experts”. 

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