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Islamic State group silent as deadline passes with no swap


Tokyo: Families of a Japanese journalist and Jordanian military pilot remained in limbo today, a day after the latest purported deadline for a possible prisoner swap passed with no further word from the Islamic State group holding them captive.

Japanese officials had no progress to report after a late night that ended with the Jordanian government saying it would only release an al-Qaida prisoner from death row if it got proof the airman was alive.

“There is nothing I can tell you,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters. He reiterated Japan’s “strong trust” in the Jordanians to help save the Japanese hostage, freelance journalist Kenji Goto.

Suga said the government had been in close contact with Goto’s wife, Rinko Jogo, who released a statement overnight pleading for her husband’s life.

“I fear that this is the last chance for my husband, and we now have only a few hours left,” Jogo said in a statement released through the Rory Peck Trust, a London-based organisation for freelance journalists.

An audio message purportedly posted online by jihadis said the pilot, Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh, would be killed if Sajida al-Rishawi, the al-Qaida prisoner, was not delivered to the Turkish border by sunset yesterday, Iraq time. It was not clear from the recording what would happen to Goto if the Iraqi woman was not returned by the deadline. The authenticity of the recording could not be verified independently by the AP.

But the possibility of a swap was raised Wednesday when Jordan said it was willing to trade al-Rishawi for the pilot. After sundown in the Middle East, with no news on the fate of either the pilot or Goto, the families’ agonising wait dragged on.

Goto’s wife said she had avoided public comment until the last minute to try to protect her daughters, an infant and a 2-year-old, from media attention.

Yesterday, Goto’s wife revealed that she had exchanged several emails with her husband’s captors, and that in the past 20 hours she had received one appearing to be their final demand. She urged the Japanese and Jordanian governments to finalise a swap that would free both hostages.

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