The Islamic State group has demanded the release of an Iraqi woman named Sajida al-Rishawi, as it posted a video indicating the beheading of one of two Japanese hostages taken in Syria, Haruna Yukawa. Instead of ransom, the terror group is seeking a prisoner swap: the other Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, for Rishawi, an alleged attempted suicide bomber.
"It is simple. You give them Sajida, and I will be released," the voice of a man claiming to be Goto says in a video posted by a known supporter of the militant group formerly known as either ISIL or ISIS. "Again, I would like to stress how easy it is to save my life. You bring them their sister from the Jordanian regime, and I will be released immediately -- me for her."
Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Saturday the government is checking the authenticity of the video, according to CNN. A U.S. National Security Council representative, Patrick Ventrell, said in a statement Saturday the White House is also working to confirm the video's authenticity.
Rishawi, who is now in her 40s, was arrested by Jordanian authorities in 2005 for allegedly trying to bomb a hotel in the capital city of Amman. Rishawi failed to detonate an explosive belt, but three other al Qaeda members -- including her husband -- successfully detonated explosives inside three hotels. The terror attacks Nov. 9, 2005, killed at least 57 people, the New York Times reported at the time.
Rishawi and her husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari of Iraq's Anbar province, were allegedly targeting a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding reception of about 300 people at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, according to the Associated Press (via Haaretz). "It is clear from the way she was dressed and the explosive belts with ball bearings that they wanted to target innocent civilians, and also wanted to inflict the biggest number of casualties and victims," Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan al-Muasher said in 2005. A group of militants later demanded Rishawi's release and threatened to kill a Jordanian hostage, CNN reported.
Rishawi is the sister of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's former right-hand man in Anbar. Jordanian-born Zarqawi was often called the lead operator of al Qaeda in Iraq. However, it's unclear how much contact he had with either Osama bin Laden or other senior al Qaeda officials. He claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings, beheadings, executions and other attacks in a brutal campaign to unite Sunni Iraqis under Shariah, or Islamic law, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent U.S. think tank.
"For al Qaeda, attaching its name to Zarqawi's activities enabled it to maintain relevance even as its core forces were destroyed [in Afghanistan] or on the run," Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism fellow at the New America Foundation, told the Council on Foreign Relations.
After Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006, Egyptian-born Abu Ayyub al-Masri emerged as the new leader, as the Christian Science Monitor reported. In October 2006, Masri adopted for his group the moniker Islamic State of Iraq, or ISI. This organization -- Zarqawi's terror network -- later became known as Islamic State group, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Lest you forgot, Zarqawi’s Islamic State of Iraq also known as al Qaeda in Iraq is the genesis of what is known today as ISIS," award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr blogged last June. "Suffice it to remember that the region has been a fertile ground for infiltration and terrorism to understand the real problem and do something about it."