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Jordan ready to swap terrorist for pilot held by Islamic State

The announcement from Amman came just ahead of an IS deadline to kill a captured Jordanian pilot if a sought-after suicide bomber is not released. The fate of a Japanese journalist held under threat by IS remains uncertain. 

This still image taken from a video posted on YouTube by jihadists on Tuesday shows a still photo of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto holding a photo of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. Both are being held hostage by the Islamic State militant group.

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Jordan announced Wednesday it is willing to trade an Iraqi prisoner convicted of terrorism in exchange for a Jordanian pilot captured by the self-described Islamic State. The announcement came on Jordanian state television just ahead of a deadline imposed by the IS militant group.

In a video released Tuesday, Jordan was given 24 hours to release Sajida al-Rishawi, a convicted suicide bomber. If not released, the Islamic State threatened to kill a captured Japanese reporter and the Jordanian pilot. Kenji Goto, the journalist, relayed the terrorist group’s message while holding a photo of Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the pilot.

“Jordan confirms that it is completely prepared to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if Moaz al-Kasasbeh is released and his life is intact,” a government statement said. There was no mention of Mr. Goto, the captive journalist.

Ms. Rishawi is on death row in Jordan for her role in a 2005 Al Qaeda attack on three hotels in the capital of Amman that killed 60 people, The Associated Press reports. She was arrested after her suicide vest of explosives didn’t detonate.

The pilot, Mr. Kaseasbeh, was captured by IS after his fighter jet crashed in December over Raqqa, Syria.

Jordan has been under public pressure to negotiate with IS. Many Jordanians don’t agree with their country’s role in US-led airstrikes on the terrorist group, the BBC reports: “They want their captured pilot to come home alive and for Jordan to stay out of the fight against IS.”

Late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, several hundred people demonstrated in front of the prime minister’s office to in support of Kaseasbeh. “Who is Sajida to us?” Youssef al-Kasasbeh, the captured pilot’s father, asked.

“Sajida is a burden on us, let them release her. I am asking for the release of Sajida and all the prisoners, and the return of Moaz to us,” he said.

Kaseasbeh is the first prisoner from the US-led coalition to be captured by IS since the coalition, which includes four Arab countries, began airstrikes against the terrorist group, The New York Times reports.

IS allegedly killed a second Japanese captive earlier this month after initially demanding $200 million for his and Goto's release. Last year, the terrorist group, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, publicized the beheadings of three US and two British hostages.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe called the extremists’ threat a “despicable act.”

“Within this extremely severe context, the government of Japan is requesting cooperation from the government of Jordan to bring about the early release of Mr. Goto,” Mr. Abe said Wednesday. “This policy will remain unchanged going forward.”

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