Anxious wait as Jordan offers to exchange jihadist for pilot

Anxious wait as Jordan offers to exchange jihadist for pilot
A relative of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh up his picture as they shout slogans demanding the Jordanian government negotiate with Islamic State for his release, in front of the Royal Palace in Amman January 28, 2015.

AMMAN - Jordan offered Wednesday to exchange a female jihadist for a Jordanian pilot held by the Islamic State group, whose deadline for executing the airman and a Japanese journalist is thought to have passed.

Hours later, Amman and Tokyo both anxiously awaited news on the fate of the men, as Japan's foreign minister said the situation remained "severe".

Jordan's offer came after the hostages' parents made last-ditch pleas for their lives ahead of the IS deadline for the release of the woman, a would-be suicide bomber.

" Jordan is ready to release the prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot is freed unharmed," state television quoted a government spokesman as saying.

"From the start, the position of Jordan was to ensure the safety of our son, the pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh," it added.

It made no mention of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto.

In a video released Tuesday, IS threatened to kill Kassasbeh and Goto unless Rishawi was freed within 24 hours.

The Japanese government said earlier it believed the IS deadline would expire at around 1400 GMT Wednesday.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh wrote on Twitter shortly before 1500 GMT that his country was still awaiting confirmation that the pilot was safe.

About an hour earlier he denied Rishawi had already been freed.

Japan has been seeking Jordan's help since an IS video released at the weekend said another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, had been beheaded.

It has already sent Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama to Amman to head an emergency response team.

In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said "24 hours have passed since we confirmed the (latest) video of Mr Goto, but we haven't received any information indicating particularly major developments.

"The situation remains severe, but we will continue making the utmost effort towards his release while closely cooperating with Jordan," he told journalists.

"We need to engage in careful and meticulous scrutiny when further considering how to handle this issue." Rishawi has been on death row since 2006 for her part in triple hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60 people.

Kassasbeh was captured on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria.

Jordanian officials have noted that while the IS video threatened Kassasbeh's life, it only mentioned freeing Goto in exchange for Rishawi.

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