Hours after the Islamic State group announced the apparent beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, the fate of a Jordanian hostage remained unclear. The video showing Goto's purported execution did not mention Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh's status, and talks between Jordanian officials and ISIS militants had reportedly broken down.
Kaseasbeh is the first foreign pilot to be captured by ISIS since a U.S.-led military coalition began launching airstrikes against ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria in September. Jordan is part of the coalition, and government officials are under increasing domestic pressure to win Kaseasbeh's release.
The pilot was captured in late December after his F-16 jet crashed near Raqqa, the extremist group's de facto capital in Syria. Goto was captured in October after he traveled to Syria in an attempt to win the release of Japanese national Haruna Yukawa, who was beheaded last Saturday.
"It's hard to calculate what the Islamic State has done or will do to al-Kaseasbeh," Rita Katz, who directs Search for International Terrorist Entities, a private intelligence group in Washington, said in a Saturday analysis. "The group may have more to gain by keeping him alive. However, as the Islamic State has proven to ignore both logic and morality, it is indeed possible that his execution video will be posted online soon."
Earlier this week, ISIS militants purportedly posted an audio message that said the pilot would be killed unless Jordan released Sajida al-Rishawi, a female suicide bomber who attacked a hotel in Jordan's capital in 2005. Rishawi faces death by hanging for her role in the attack that killed 60 people in Amman. Militants gave Jordan until sunset Thursday to deliver Rishawi to the Turkish border.
Jordanian officials responded by demanding evidence from ISIS Kaseasbeh is still alive. They threatened to take revenge and expedite Rishawi's execution if the militants killed the captured pilot, various media outlets reported Friday. The hostage-takers have yet to provide any information on Kaseasbeh's status, and talks appeared to remain at a standstill.
"Jordan does not have a history of negotiating with terrorists," Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister, told the Associated Press in Beruit Friday. "At the same time, I think it is clear that all other alternatives are worse than releasing the pilot and ending in that scenario."
The Japanese government said Sunday, local time, the video released by ISIS showing the beheading Goto appears to be genuine and "has a high degree of credibility," Reuters reported. U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the execution as "a heinous act" and said the United States would "continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy [ISIS]."