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IS silent as deadline for swap passes

By Agencies In Amman / Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2015-01-31 08:05

Japan, Jordan continue cooperation as they seek information on captives held by Islamic State

Japan and Jordan were working closely on Friday to learn the fate of two hostages held by the Islamic State group, after a deadline passed for a prisoner swap.

Jordan's military said on Friday it was still awaiting proof that a pilot threatened with execution by the IS group is safe. IS had vowed to kill Maaz al-Kasaesbeh by sunset on Thursday unless Amman handed over attempted suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi in return for captured Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

"State organs are working round-the-clock following up on the case of the pilot, ... and in the event of any developments, the information would be shared at the right time," army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said in a statement.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary panel, "We are gathering and analyzing information while asking for cooperation from Jordan and other countries, making every effort to free Kenji Goto."

Jordan is still holding the Iraqi female.

An audio message, purportedly from Goto, said the pilot would be killed if Jordan did not free Rishawi, on death row for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing that killed 60 people in Amman.

The message extended a previous deadline set on Tuesday in which Goto said he would be killed within 24 hours if she was not freed.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said late on Friday that Tokyo was doing everything it could, but declined to answer whether negotiations had stalled and if there was any progress.

The group, which has released videos showing the beheadings of five Western hostages, is coming under increased military pressure from US-led airstrikes and by Kurdish and Iraqi troops pushing to reverse the Islamist group's territorial gains in Iraq and Syria.

Kasaesbeh was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against the militants.

Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said Jordan was coordinating with Japanese authorities in an effort to secure Goto's release. Goto's wife, Rinko Jogo, urged both governments to work for her husband's freedom.

"I fear that this is the last chance for my husband, and we now have only a few hours left," Jogo said in a statement released through the Rory Peck Trust, a London-based organization for freelance journalists.

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