Japanese officials said they were trusting Jordan to pull through and rescue both captured Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh as a new hostage deadline approached. In the latest threat issued by the Islamic State group late Wednesday, Japan and Jordan had until sunset Thursday local time to deliver two detained Iraqi terrorists in exchange for Goto and al-Kaseasbeh.
"As the situation is developing, I shouldn't comment on details. But Japan and Jordan are dealing with the matter based on an extremely trusting relationship," government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters, according to the Associated Press. An unnamed Japanese official said Thursday morning that it was still possible for things to turn out right. The militant group, also known as ISIS, was just “trying to draw world attention,” the official told Japan Times. “The situation still remains very tough.”
Jordan officials had said Wednesday they were ready to free Sajida al-Rishawi, an arrested Iraqi terrorist whose 2005 suicide bomb attack failed to go off, in exchange for al-Kaseasbeh, but made no mention of freeing Goto in the exchange. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh later told CNN that Jordan hasn't forgotten Goto, and that Goto’s release would “of course” be part of a prisoner exchange, but the priority was al-Kaseasbeh’s freedom.
A new audio message read in English in the voice that was likely to be Goto’s said that Jordan and Japan had 24 hours to perform the hostage swap or else the hostages would both be executed. The new deadline was sunset in Mosul, Iraq, or around 10 a.m. EST Thursday.
“Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they’re responsible for the death of their pilot, which will then be followed by mine. I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less. Please don’t leave us to die,” Goto’s voice said in the video.
Goto was one of the original two Japanese civilians who were shown in an ISIS video on Jan. 20, asking for $200 million in exchange for Goto’s and Haruna Yukawa’s life. That ransom wasn't met when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wouldn't pay up despite vowing to save their lives. Yukawa was allegedly executed in a video released Saturday. "This heinous terrorist act is totally unforgivable," Abe said in parliament on Thursday.
Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, said she had complete trust Abe would rescue her son. “Japan is a smart country. I have a 100 percent faith in [the nation’s] ability to protect its own people,” Ishido told reporters at her home in Tokyo, according to the Japan Times. “I don’t think Prime Minister Abe is the kind of person who would sit back and watch his fellow [citizen] die.”