Isis Japanese hostage crisis: Kenji Goto's mother pleads with Shinzo Abe to save son after militants give 24 hours for prisoner swap

Prime Minister had earlier condemned threats as 'extremely despicable'

Heather Saul
Wednesday 28 January 2015 07:43
Kenji Goto's mother Junko Ishido expressed hope for his release, but also desperation
Kenji Goto's mother Junko Ishido expressed hope for his release, but also desperation

The mother of a Japanese hostage being held hostage by Isis militants has made a second emotional appeal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to save her son after his captors threatened to kill him within 24 hours.

Junko Ishido, the mother of freelance journalist Kenji Goto, read out her plea to Mr Abe to "please save Kenji", which she said was sent on Wednesday.

An audio released by Isis threatened to kill Mr Goto and the Jordanian pilot Lieutenant Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh unless a prisoner swap was carried out within 24 hours.

Ms Ishido begged Mr Abe to work with the Jordanian government to secure her son's release, saying: "Kenji has only a little time left."

Mr Goto's mother expressed hope for his release, but also desperation. "What has my child done wrong?" she said. "There's no more time."

The Japanese Prime Minister earlier condemned the new video as "despicable" and demanded the extremists free Mr Goto, as secret talks sought both his release and that of a Jordanian pilot.

Shinzo Abe demanded the extremists free Kenji Goto

The efforts in Jordan to free Mr Goto and Lieutenant Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh gained urgency with the release of an apparent ultimatum from Isis yesterday.

In the message, the extremists said the hostages would be killed unless Jordan freed Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death for her part in a 2005 terror attack on a hotel that killed 60 people.

"While this is a tough situation, we remain unchanged in our stance of seeking help from the Jordanian government in securing the early release of Mr Goto," Mr Abe said.

Kenji Goto was seized in October in Syria

In Jordan, the pilot's father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, begged the government "to meet the demands" of the kidnappers.

"All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Mu'ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Mu'ath means chaos in Jordan," he said.

About 200 of the pilot's relatives protested outside the prime minister's office in the Jordanian capital Amman, chanting anti-government slogans and urging that it meet the captors' demands.

A member of Jordan's parliament said the country was in indirect talks with the militants to secure the hostages' release.

Bassam al-Manasseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said negotiations were taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan would not negotiate directly with Isis or free al-Rishawi in exchange for Mr Goto only.

A prisoner exchange would be contrary to the policy of Jordan's main ally, the US, which opposes negotiating with extremists. Mr Manaseer's comments were the strongest suggestion yet that Japan and Jordan might be open to a prisoner exchange.

Japan's deputy foreign minister Yasuhide Nakayama was in Amman to co-ordinate hostage release efforts with Jordan, but refused to comment on the talks early today.

The hostage saga involving the two Japanese men has stunned the nation and triggered criticism of Mr Abe over the handling of the crisis. The militants have reportedly beheaded one Japanese captive, Haruna Yukawa.

About 200 of Muath al-Kasaesbeh's relatives protested outside the prime minister's office in the Jordanian capital Amman

Yesterday's video was similar to a message released showing a still of a man believed to be Mr Goto holding what appeared to be a photo of Mr Yukawa's body. It withdrew a demand for $200 million (£132m) in ransom for Mr Goto and Mr Yukawa, made in an earlier message.

"I have only 24 hours left to live and the pilot has even less," says the audio, purportedly from Mr Goto.

The videos, all of which lack the logo of Isis's al-Furqan media arm, could not be verified independently, but some militant websites affiliated with Isis referenced the latest video and posted links to it.

Lt al-Kaseasbeh, 26, has been held by the militants since his Jordanian F-16 fighter jet crashed near Isis' de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, in December. He is the first foreign military pilot it has captured since a US-led coalition that includes Jordan began its aerial campaign against the extremists in August.

Mr Goto was seized in October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue Mr Yukawa, 42, who was captured by the militants in August.

Japanese officials have indicated they are treating the video released over the weekend as authentic and that Mr Yukawa is dead.

Karboli, an aide to a former al Qaida leader in Iraq, was sentenced to death in 2008 for killing a Jordanian citizen.

Additional reporting by PA

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