Jordan offers ISIL prisoner swap



Jordan has offered to free a female jihadist in exchange for a Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State (ISIL).

The jihadist group is threatening to execute the airman, along with a Japanese journalist

News of the deal came after the parents of the hostages made last-ditch pleas for their lives ahead of a deadline set by ISIL for the release of the would-be suicide bomber imprisoned in Jordan.

“Jordan is ready to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot is freed unharmed,” state television quoted a government spokesman as saying on Wednesday.

“From the start, the position of Jordan was to ensure the safety of our son, the pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh,” it added.

The statement made no mention of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

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ISIL, in a video released Tuesday, threatened to kill Kassasbeh and Goto unless Rishawi was freed within 24 hours.

The Japanese government said earlier it believed the IS deadline would expire at around 1400 GMT Wednesday (0100 AEDT Thursday).

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh wrote on Twitter that his country was still awaiting confirmation that the pilot was safe.

Tokyo has been urgently seeking Jordan’s help since an IS video released at the weekend said another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, had been beheaded.

Rishawi has been on death row since 2006 for her part in triple hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60 people.

Kassasbeh was captured on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria.

Jordanian officials have noted that while the IS video threatened Kassasbeh’s life, it only mentioned freeing Goto in exchange for Rishawi.

The pilot’s father Safi Kassasbeh begged the Jordanian government to save his son “at any price”, while Goto’s mother urged Tokyo to “please save Kenji’s life”.

After initially setting a $US200 million ($A252 million) ransom for Yukawa and Goto’s release, IS changed tack and demanded Jordan free Rishawi.

Any suggestion of a swap will likely face resistance from the United States.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier this week a prisoner exchange was “in the same category” as paying a ransom.


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