Jordan is willing to exchange a female terrorist on death row for a Jordanian pilot in Islamic State custody, according to a government statement on Wednesday, potentially becoming the first crack in the international coalition against the terrorist army.
Lt. Muadh al-Kasasbeh, the pilot, has been held by the terrorist group since his plane crashed in ISIS territory in late December. Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi citizen, was arrested in 2005 for her role in a coordinated bombing of three hotels that killed 60 people in Jordan’s capital, Amman. She was supposed to have died in the attack, but her suicide belt failed to go off.
Jordan has been a close American ally in the air campaign against ISIS. Al-Kasasbeh was part of that campaign before his crash and capture.
Many Jordanians, rallying around al-Kasasbeh’s family, have openly criticized Jordan’s King Abdullah for his reluctance to negotiate for their countryman’s safety, even though doing so contradicts the country’s long history of a hardline policy that refuses to accommodate terrorists’ demands.
In the past week, two videos have circulated online, purportedly made by ISIS despite certain discrepancies with the group’s usual style. One alluded to the beheading of one Japanese hostage, Haruna Yakawa, while the second features prisoner Kenji Goto announcing that he and al-Kasasbeh would die unless Jordan released its convict.
The government announced its willingness to release al-Rishawi before receiving confirmation that al-Kasasbeh was still alive. Given the uncertain provenance of the videos, some have speculated that Goto and al-Kasasbeh are not in fact safe in ISIS custody.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the terrorists’ threats “despicable,” and asked the Jordanians for cooperation in facilitating Goto’s release. The involvement of two of their own has ignited public outcry in Japan.
Wednesday’s Jordanian government statement did not mention the Japanese. Neither did it mention any details of a potential swap— only that it was willing to release al-Rishawi in exchange for al-Kasasbeh’s freedom.
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