Monday 23 October 2017

Jordan still ready for swap with Islamic State to free pilot

Relatives of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured by Islamic State after his plane crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against them, hold pictures of him at the family's headquarters in the city of Karak. Reuters
Relatives of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured by Islamic State after his plane crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against them, hold pictures of him at the family's headquarters in the city of Karak. Reuters

Jordan said today it was still ready to hand over a jailed Iraqi militant to Islamic State in a swap deal if a captured Jordanian pilot was released even after a second Japanese hostage was beheaded by the hardline group.

Jordan's security and military agencies were making constant checks to see whether the pilot, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, was still alive, government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said.

Kasaesbeh was captured in December after his F-16 fighter jet crashed in territory controlled by the militants in Syria.

"We are still ready to hand over the convict Sajida al-Rishawi in return for the return of our son and our hero," Momani told Reuters.

Read more: 'I will never forgive these terrorists': Japanese PM leads outrage at beheading of hostage Kenji Goto

There has been public pressure on Jordan to negotiate with Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq. Protests have erupted in Karak, home town of the pilot, who is from an important Jordanian tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

Jordan's government also condemned the purported beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, shown in an Islamic State video released late on Saturday. Goto had been held captive along with Kasaesbeh but the footage made no mention of the Jordanian.

Islamic State has demanded the release of Rishawi in exchange for the pilot's life. She was jailed by Jordan for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people in the capital Amman.

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