Jordan tense as IS hostage talks reach 'deadlock'

Jordan tense as IS hostage talks reach 'deadlock'
Islamic State group silent on condition of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, as Japanese government says talks to free one of its citizens held by the IS had stalled.
3 min read
29 January, 2015
Many Jordanians oppose the country's involvement in the anti-IS coaltion [AFP]

The fate of a Jordanian pilot held by the Islamic State group is still unknown, as Japanese officials said talks to secure the release of one of its citizens had reached "deadlock".

Two deadlines have passed this week since the IS group threatened the lives of Jordanian airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh and Kenji Goto, a Japenese journalist, unless Jordan released Sajida Rijawi, a high-profile IS sympathiser on death row for her part in bombings in Amman in 2005.

The last deadline passed on Thursday, and there has been no word since. Jordan's demands for proof of life before any deal is struck have gone unheeded.

Yasuhide Nakayama, Japan's deputy foreign minister, who is leading Tokyo's emergency response team in Amman, said late on Friday that there had been no progress.

"It has become deadlocked. Staying vigilant, we will continue analysing and examining information... the government is making concerted efforts." 

Dissent in Jordan

Jordan's handling of the situation has created a minor crisis for the royal family and his government. Authorities have been accused of not doing enough to get the pilot released.

Anti-war protests have taken place in Amman, and the pilot's hometown Karak, demading Jordan secure Kassasbeh's release.

Jordan's Senate president, Abdelraouf al-Rawabdeh, has prepared the nation for the death of Kassasbeh by telling parliament that "every soldier could be a martyr".

Goto's Japanese collegue, Haruna Yukawa, was murdered by the IS group last Saturday after Japan failed to pay a $200m ransom demand.

IS said on Tuesday that it would free Goto, and spare Kassasbeh's life in return for Rijawi. It did not offer to free the pilot.

Jordan replied by demanding the release of Kassasbeh, and did not mention the Japanese hostage.

     "Jordan has so far received no information that proves the pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh is safe.
- Jordan government.

The IS  threatened to kill Kassasbeh on Wednesday unless its demands were met, but then extended the deadline to late on Thursday. Jordan responded by saying it wanted proof the airman was still alive.

Jordan denied reports on Thursday that Rishawi had been moved in preparation for the transfer. "Rishawi is still in Jordan and the exchange will happen once we receive the proof of life that we asked for," said government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said.

The pilot's father said he met the king on Wednesday, who he said assured him that "everything will be fine". He had previously told al-Araby that he had heard nothing from the government about its efforts to free his son.

Kaseasbeh, 26, was seized after his F-16 crashed in December near the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria. He was the first foreign military pilot the captured since the coalition began its airstrikes in August.

Rishawi was jailed in Jordan and faced a death sentence for involvement in the bombing of hotels in Amman, which killed more than 60 people. She was arrested after her explosive belt failed to detonate.