An online video has been release purportedly from members of the Islamic State claiming that the remaining Japanese hostage and the Jordanian pilot currently held captive have less than 24 to live.
In the message, which was posted on Tuesday, the extremists demand the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for a 2005 attack that left 60 dead.
The video follows a similar post over the weekend that showed Kenji Goto holding what appears to be a photo of the body of fellow Japanese hostage Haruna Yukawa. Jordanian pilot 1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh was captured after his F-16 jet crash-landed near the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Although the video has not been independently verified, according to AP several militant websites affiliated with the Islamic State group referenced the video and posted links to it late Tuesday afternoon.
Japanese officials held emergency meetings after the release of the message. Spokesman Yasuhide Suga said he had seen the video but did not comment on its authenticity.
Suga said: "In this extremely tough situation, we are continuing as before to request the cooperation of the Jordanian government to work toward the immediate release of Mr. Goto."
A Japanese envoy in Jordan, Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama, earlier expressed hope the two hostages would return home "with a smile on their faces."
"I hope we can all firmly work hard and join hands to cooperate, and for the two countries (Japan and Jordan) to cooperate, in order for us to see the day when the Jordanian pilot and our Japanese national Mr. Goto, can both safely return to their own countries with a smile on their faces," he told reporters late Monday night after another day of crisis talks in the Jordanian capital.
It was the first time a Japanese official mentioned al-Kaseasbeh, who has been held by the extremist Islamic State group after crashing in December. It wasn't clear when the pilot possible release had entered the picture.
Freelance journalist Kenji Goto was seized in late October in Syria, apparently while trying to rescue another hostage, 42-year-old Haruna Yukawa, who was captured by the militants last summer.
Japanese officials have indicated they are treating the video released over the weekend as authentic and thus accepting the likelihood that Yukawa, a 42-year-old adventurer captured in Syria last summer, was killed.
Securing the release of al-Rishawi would be a major propaganda coup for the Islamic State and would allow the group to reaffirm its links to al-Qaida in Iraq.
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