Japan verifying new recording of ISIL ‘hostage’

TOKYO – Japan undertook efforts Thursday to verify the authenticity of an audio recording in which a Japanese hostage allegedly says the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will kill a captured Jordanian pilot if its demands are not met.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said the government was analyzing the message but the voice most likely belonged to journalist Kenji Goto, the Kyodo news agency reported. 

The recording was released after ISIL’s 24-hour deadline for Jordan to release Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi national sentenced to death in 2005 following a spate of fatal hotel bombings, in an exchange expired Wednesday.

Jordanian government spokesperson Mohamed al-Momni had told state television the same day that the country was ready to release al-Rishawi in order to ensure the pilot’s safety.

In the latest recording, the voice says, "If Sajida al-Rishawi is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset 29th of January Mosul time, the Jordanian pilot Muath al Kasaesbeh will be killed immediately."

As Japan’s Parliament discussed the situation Thursday, Kyodo quoted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as saying, "As a new statement that is likely from the ISIL side was posted on the Internet, we are analyzing the content in a prompt manner."

Condemning ISIL’s holding of hostages as a "simply unforgivable" act, he stressed Japan would never yield to terrorism.

"We are making all-out efforts to secure [Goto's] release as soon as possible," he added.

Japan stepped up calls for Jordan to help secure Goto’s release, formally requesting that King Abdullah II consider releasing al-Rishawi, after a clip released over the weekend seemed to show that another Japanese hostage, 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, had been murdered.

The 24-hour deadline that ended Wednesday was announced in a clip posted online Tuesday which showed Goto in a still photograph wearing an orange jumpsuit, holding a photograph of a man who appears to be al Kasaesbeh, who was captured by ISIL in December. The voice in the video says the pilot will be killed before Goto.

On Jan. 20, ISIL posted its first video of Goto and Yukawa, threatening to kill them within 72 hours unless Japan paid a $200 million ransom – a demand that was later dropped. The demands came after Premier Abe’s recent Middle East tour, during which he pledged $200 million in non-military aid to countries affected by the international campaign against ISIL.

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