Japan reviewing authenticity of fresh militant message

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that Tokyo was analysing the authenticity of a fresh message from Islamic militants threatening to kill Japanese and Jordanian hostages unless an imprisoned jihadist is released.

“We are aware of the new message,” Abe said during a parliamentary session.

“Now, we are verifying (its authenticity), but we will do our best to secure the release of the Japanese national as soon as possible,” he added.

Tokyo is pleading to Amman to help rescue Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who has been taken hostage by the Islamic State group.

In a fresh online message posted early Thursday Japan time, the militants demanded that Amman hand over by “sunset” female jihadist Sajida al-Rishawi, who is on death row in Jordan for her role in 2006 triple hotel bombings in Amman that killed 60 people.

The latest message, apparently using Goto’s voice, ordered Jordan to release Rishawi in exchange for Goto’s life, or kill the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who is also being held captive by the militants.

Jordan offered Wednesday to release Rishawi in exchange for the airman, whom Amman has been negotiating to rescue since his capture in December.

Japan has been seeking Jordan’s help in attempting to free Goto particularly since an IS video released at the weekend said another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, had been beheaded.

After initially setting a $200 million (144 million euro) ransom for Yukawa and Goto’s release, the Islamic State group, which rules swathes of Syria and Iraq, changed tack and demanded Jordan free Rishawi.

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