ISIS Hostages' Fate Unknown As Prisoner Swap Deadline Passes

Jordan said it is still holding a would-be Iraqi suicide bomber prisoner after a deadline set by ISIS to exchange her for a Jordanian pilot militants captured in December. The fate of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto is unclear.

What We Know So Far

  • A spokesman for the Jordanian government said it is open to releasing Iraqi militant Sajida al-Rishawi in exchange for Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who was captured in December.
  • The spokesman didn't mention Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also an ISIS hostage.
  • Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi, was sentenced to death in Jordan for taking part in a 2005 deadly attack on a hotel in Amman. Her suicide belt purportedly failed to detonate.
  • ISIS released a video around Jan. 20 demanding $200 million from the Japanese government for the release of two hostages: Goto and Haruna Yukawa.
  • In a video on Jan. 24, Goto was seen holding a photo of a beheaded Haruna Yukawa.
  • In that video, ISIS demanded the release of al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto.
  • On Tuesday, another video of Goto surfaced saying he has 24 hours to live.
  • A video released early Thursday appears to have extended the deadline.


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The ISIS-imposed deadline to exchange would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi for Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh passed Thursday with no word on the fate of the hostages.

Jordan said it was still holding al-Rishawi prisoner after a sunset deadline set by ISIS to exchange her for al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured by militants in December.

In the latest audio recording released Wednesday of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also being held hostage by the terrorist group, Goto said the Jordanian pilot would be killed "immediately" if al-Rishawi was not at the Turkish border by sunset on Thursday — around 9:30 a.m. ET.

There was no word on the fate of either hostage being held by ISIS.

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Talks between Jordan and ISIS over the release of the two hostages have failed.

Sources in contact with Jordanian officials told the New York Times that negotiation talks failed and the fate of the Jordanian pilot and Japanese journalist remains unknown.

The sources say the extremists have failed to provide proof the pilot is still alive and therefore Jordanian officials will not release Sajida al-Rishawi.

Jordanian officials were going to swap al-Rishawi for the two hostages on Thursday by bringing the failed suicide-bomber to the Syrian-Turkish border.

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Reuters reported that a new audio clip, posted to YouTube early on Thursday, appears to confirm the deadline has been extended.

According to Reuters, in the new clip (which has not been verified), Japanese journalist Kenji Goto says:

I am Kenji Goto. This is a voice message I've been told to send to you. If Sajida al-Rishawi is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset 29th of January Mosul (Iraq) time, the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh will be killed immediately.

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In an audio message posted on YouTube Wednesday, a man who identified himself as Japanese ISIS hostage Kenji Goto said Jordanian pilot and fellow hostage Muath al-Kaseasbeh would be executed if a prisoner exchange was not completed by Thursday.

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Who is Sajida al-Rishawi? And why is she so important to ISIS? Read our explainer here.

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Jordan is in indirect negotiations with ISIS to free both the hostages, Bloomberg News reported.

Bassam al-Manaseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Jordanian parliament, said Tuesday that negotiations were on through Iraqi religious and tribal leaders.

"We hope to hear good news soon," al-Manaseer told Bloomberg News.

Japan's vice foreign minister said they wanted to work closely with Jordan to secure Goto and al-Kaseasbeh's release.

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Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh has tweeted a denial that Rishawi has already been freed, and reiterated that her release depends on that of the captive pilot.

من يقول ان الريشاوي اطلق سراحها وغادرت الأردن الكلام غير صحيح. وقلنا من البداية إطلاق سراحها مرهون بالأفراج عن ابننا معاذ #الأردن

Translation: "Whoever says that Rishawi was released and has left Jordan is not speaking the truth. We have said from the start that her release depends on the release of our son Moaz # Jordan"

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Muath al-Kaseasbeh's father appealed to Jordan's government to bring back his son.

"I firmly ask whomever has sent Muath to fight outside the borders of Jordan, on a mission unrelated to us, to make strong efforts to bring back Muath," Safi al-Kaseasbeh said Tuesday.

First Lieutenant al-Kaseasbeh, a fighter pilot, was captured by ISIS after his jet crashed in Syria in December. He was involved in airstrikes against ISIS by the U.S.-led coalition of countries including Jordan. He is in his mid-20s and had recently gotten married before his capture, the New York Times reported.

"Muath's blood is precious, it's precious and it represents the blood of all Jordanians," al-Kaseasbeh's father said.

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An apparent ISIS video released Tuesday threatens to kill both the Japanese and Jordanian hostages if Jordan does not release al-Rishawi.

In the video, posted by ISIS supporters, an image of Goto appears holding a photo of who appears to be Jordanian military pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. A voice, purporting to be Goto's, says he will be freed in exchange for al-Rishawi.

The video does not mention if al-Kaseasbeh would also be released as part of the exchange, but both his and Goto's lives were threatened, CNN reported.

The video's authenticity has not been verified by authorities.

The voice in the video says:

"I've been told this is my last message, and I've also been told that the barrier obstructing my freedom is now just the Jordanian government delaying the handover of Sajida. Tell the Japanese government to put all the political pressure on Jordan."

"Her for me -- a straight exchange. Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they are responsible for the death of their pilot, which will then be followed by mine.

"I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less."

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Kenji Goto’s mother publicly appealed to Japan’s Shinzo Abe to save her son.

Junko Ishido read her plea Wednesday to reporters. She said she sent the plea after both Abe and Japan's main government spokesman refused to meet with her, according to the Associated Press.

"Please save Kenji's life," she read. "Kenji has only a little time left."

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The Japanese government said Wednesday it is gathering information on the situation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama said that "since it's a moving issue I would like to refrain from commenting."

During an afternoon news conference, Japan's top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said he hadn't heard anything from Jordan regarding a potential release. "In this severe situation Japan has been asking Jordan for its cooperation. There's nothing more and nothing less," he said.

According to the AP:

Jordan is reportedly in indirect talks with the militants through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq to secure the hostages' release.

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People rallied outside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's residence on Wednesday for Goto's release:

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As BuzzFeed News reported:

Al Rashawi has been sentenced to death in Jordan after being convicted of taking part in a 2005 deadly attack on a hotel in Amman. She was shown confessing on television following the attack, after her suicide belt purportedly failed to detonate.

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A spokesperson for the government of Jordan said Wednesday that it was prepared to release an Iraqi militant on death row if ISIS agrees to release Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, an ISIS hostage.

"Jordan is ready to release prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi if the Jordanian pilot Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh was released and his life spared," spokesperson Mohammad al-Momani said on state television, according to Reuters.

He did not mention Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who ISIS said would be killed if al-Rishawi wasn't released.

This is a developing story. Please check back here and at BuzzFeed News on Twitter for updates.

Jordan's government said it was willing to exchange prisoner Sajida al-Rishawi for Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is an ISIS captive. This article earlier said Jordan would trade al-Rishawi for the release of Japanese journalist Kenjo Goto.

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