TOKYO - The Japanese government is analysing a purported new voice recording in which a Japanese journalist held captive by Islamic State says a Jordanian pilot also in their custody will be killed if a swap for a would-be suicide bomber is not carried out by sunset on Thursday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office said.
Jordan said on Wednesday it had received no assurance that one of its pilots captured by Islamic State insurgents was safe and that it would go ahead with a proposed prisoner swap only if he was freed.
The fate of Jordanian air force pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh was thought to be tied to that of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, a veteran war reporter who is being held by the insurgent group.
A video was released on Tuesday purporting to show the Japanese national saying he had 24 hours to live unless Jordan released Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman on death row for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack.
In the latest recording, the voice of a man who identifies himself as Goto says in English: "If Sajida al-Rishawi is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset January 29 Mosul time, the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh will be killed immediately." Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said earlier that Jordan was ready to release al-Rishawi if Kasaesbeh was spared, but made clear that she would be held until the pilot was freed.
Speaking in parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated that Japan would not give in to terrorism and that Tokyo would keep cooperating with the international community.
Abe added that peace and stability of the Middle East were important for Japan's energy strategy. Resource-poor Japan relies heavily on the Middle East for oil imports.
Goto went to Syria in late October. According to friends and business associates, he was attempting to secure the release of Haruna Yukawa, his friend and fellow Japanese citizen who was captured by Islamic State in August.
In the first of three videos purportedly of Goto, released last week, a black-clad masked figure with a knife said Goto and Yukawa would be killed within 72 hours if Japan did not pay Islamic State US$200 million (S$270 million).
A video on Saturday appeared to show Goto with a picture of a decapitated Yukawa, saying his captors' demands had switched to the release of al-Rishawi.
Tuesday's video featured an audio track over a still picture that appeared to show Goto holding a picture of a now bearded Kasaesbeh.