TOKYO (AFP) – The parents of a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian airman held by Islamic State militants made last-ditch pleas for their lives as a deadline for an exchange with an extremist bomber neared Wednesday.
Safi Kassasbeh begged the Jordanian government to save his pilot son’s “at any price”, while the mother of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto urged Tokyo to “please save Kenji’s life”.
The deadline was set by the Islamic State group in a chilling video demanding Jordan release Sajida al-Rishawi, a would-be suicide bomber who has been on death row there since 2006.
The video, which appeared on the Internet around 1400 GMT on Tuesday, said Goto and Jordanian airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh would be executed if Rishawi was not released within 24 hours.
But with the clock ticking towards the presumed deadline, Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama, who is leading Tokyo’s emergency response team in Amman, said there had been no news.
“At this moment, I have no fresh information,” he told reporters.
Asked if the government knew whether Goto was still alive, he said, “We are collecting information from a variety of channels.
“This is also an ongoing matter. I refrain from confirming any details.”
An angry Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier blasted the militants’ 24-hour deadline.
“This was an utterly despicable act, and I am appalled,” Abe told reporters. “I have instructed all ministers to work together for the early release of Mr Kenji Goto.”
“The government, in this extremely serious situation, has been asking for the Jordanian government’s cooperation towards the early release of Mr Goto, and this policy remains unchanged,” he told ministers.
Goto’s mother, Junko Ishido, was at parliament Wednesday in a failed bid to meet with Abe. After being refused an appointment with the premier, she issued a plea for her son’s life through assembled media.
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Ishido said. “Please continue your utmost efforts in negotiating with the Jordanian government until the last minute. There is not much time left.”