CAIRO: An online message purportedly from the Islamic State group warned Tuesday that a Japanese hostage and Jordanian pilot the extremists hold have less than “24 hours left to live.”
The message, posted online Tuesday afternoon, again demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for involvement in a 2005 terror attack that killed 60 people. It also mentioned Jordanian pilot 1st Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, who is a captive of the Islamic State group.
Tuesday’s video matched a message released over the weekend, though neither bore the logo of the Islamic State group’s al-Furqan media arm. The weekend video showed a still photo of Kenji Goto holding what appears to be a photo of the body of Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa.
The Associated Press could not independently verify either video. However, several militant websites affiliated with the Islamic State group referenced the video and posted links to it late Tuesday afternoon.
A Japanese envoy in Jordan, Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama, earlier expressed hope the two hostages would return home “with a smile on their faces.”
“I hope we can all firmly work hard and join hands to cooperate, and for the two countries (Japan and Jordan) to cooperate, in order for us to see the day when the Jordanian pilot and our Japanese national Mr. Goto, can both safely return to their own countries with a smile on their faces,” he told reporters late Monday night after another day of crisis talks in the Jordanian capital.
It was the first time a Japanese official mentioned al-Kaseasbeh, who has been held by the extremist Islamic State group after crashing in December. It was not clear when the pilot possible release had entered the picture.
Freelance journalist Kenji Goto was seized in late October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue another hostage, 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, who was captured by the militants last summer.
Japanese officials have indicated they are treating the video released over the weekend as authentic and thus accepting the likelihood that Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer captured in Syria last summer, was killed.
Securing the release of al-Rishawi would be a major propaganda coup for the Islamic State and would allow the group to reaffirm its links to al-Qaida in Iraq.