The Islamic State militant group on Tuesday abruptly changed its conditions regarding a Japanese hostage, now demanding a two-for-two hostage exchange – Japanese hostage Kenji Goto and a captured Jordanian pilot in exchange for two incarcerated terrorists. Japan is now working with Jordan on the details of the proposed exchange, but some Japanese media reports indicated Jordan might try to prioritize the release of its pilot over the Japanese civilian.
The militant group, also known as ISIS, wants not only its Iraqi suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi released but also another Iraqi terrorist, Ziad Al Karboli, in exchange for the Jordanian pilot, 1st Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, and journalist Goto, media outlets reported Tuesday. ISIS had apparently contacted Japan and changed its terms of releasing Goto, one of two Japanese civilians originally involved in the recent hostage crisis. After the other Japanese captive, Haruna Yukawa, was reportedly executed for Japan’s failure to pay a $200 million ransom by Friday, Japan was trying to work with ISIS to secure the exchange of Goto for al-Rishawi. Washington officials opposed the trade, saying that would be “in the same category” as paying ransom, according to Japan Times.
"I hope we can all firmly work hard and join hands to cooperate, and for the two countries to cooperate, in order for us to see the day when the Jordanian pilot and our Japanese national Mr. Goto can both safely return to their own countries with a smile on their faces," Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yasuhide Nakayama told reporters late Monday night in Amman, Jordan, according to the Associated Press.
Goto and Yukawa were shown captured in a video on Jan. 20. The video showed the men in orange jumpsuits with a captor who threatened to behead them if Japan didn't pay up. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to rescue the two hostages but also said he would not pay the ransom.
Bassam al-Manaseer, chairman of the Arab International Affairs Committee, said the best scenario might be for Jordan to release al-Rishawi, a suicide bomber whose explosives failed to go off during a 2005 attack attempt in Amman, in exchange for both hostages, according to Japanese news outlet Kyodo.
A high-ranking official in Tokyo suggested it would be Jordan that makes the ultimate decision on any hostage swap, not Japan. “Japan is incompetent as a party” to negotiate with the Islamic State group, the unnamed official told Kyodo. “We are just in a position to ask for Jordan’s cooperation,” the official was quoted as saying.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on the Kyodo report, according to Japan Times. “We are not aware of [it]. We are just making our utmost efforts to release Mr. Goto as quickly as possible,” he said during a news conference.