In a heartbreaking photo and voice recording from Japanese Journalist Kenji Goto, who was last told that he he was to be executed on Tuesday if Jordan does not meet ISIS’ demands, it is obvious that the uncertainty and brutality of his situation is taking an extreme toll on him. Interestingly, it is always Goto that speaks, never the Jordanian pilot who is also being held captive by the Islamic State, and who was purportedly to be killed along with Goto on January 29 at sunset at the location the captives are being held, a time which is now past, and the fate of the two is unclear.
The latest audio recording, which could not be verified by Reuters, was posted on YouTube early on Thursday. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that chances were good it was Goto’s voice in the recording.
“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.”
Sajida al-Rishawi is a would-be suicide bomber on death row in Jordan for her acts of terrorism. The Islamic State has demanded her release. Jordan said on Wednesday it had received no assurance that al-Kasaesbeh, the captive pilot being held by ISIS, was safe and that it would go ahead with a proposed prisoner swap only if he was freed. There seems to be a standoff, and no official word from the Islamic State why they did not execute Goto and al-Kasaesbeh on Tuesday, January 27th as planned.
The audio tape message implied that the Jordanian pilot would not be part of the exchange deal, indicating any swap would be between Goto – a veteran war reporter – and al-Rishawi. Any swap that left out the pilot would not be favorable with the public in Jordan, where officials have insisted he is their priority.
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said earlier this week that Jordan was ready to release al-Rishawi if Kasaesbeh was spared, but made it clear that she would be held until the pilot was freed. This does not seem to meet the Islamic State’s demands.
Kasaesbeh was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December 2014 during a bombing mission against Islamic State, which has captured large areas of Syria and Iraq. He is from an important Jordanian tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy, so his safe return is of high importance to Jordan.
Why Goto is always the spokesperson remains a mystery, and his appearance showed that he was disheveled and did not appear well in the photo released. Jordan wants proof their pilot is even still alive. The fate of the two captives is unclear as of this writing.
[photo courtesy ibtimes news]