AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan on Thursday demanded proof from Islamic State militants that a Jordanian pilot they are holding is still alive, despite purported threats by the group to kill the airman at sunset unless an al-Qaida prisoner is freed from death row in Jordan.
The militants’ deadline passed without word on the fate of the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, or his fellow hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.
The Jordanian government spokesman said Thursday afternoon that the death row prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, remained in Jordan.
Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally in the region, has faced difficult choices in the hostage drama. Any swap with the Islamic State group would run counter to its tough approach toward Islamic extremists, but it also faces domestic pressure to bring home the pilot.
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said Thursday the Islamic State group has not offered proof that the pilot is still alive and that this is holding up any swap.
“We want to see a proof of life of the Jordanian pilot and then we can talk about the exchange between Sajida al-Rishawi and the Jordanian pilot,” he said Thursday afternoon.
The militants have purportedly threatened to kill al-Kaseasbeh by sundown, Iraq time unless Jordan frees al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman, and delivers her to the Turkish border. Al-Rishawi has close family ties to the al-Qaida branch in Iraq, a forerunner of the Islamic State group, and was involved in deadly Amman hotel bombings by al-Qaida a decade ago.
The purported audio threat to kill the pilot was read in English by a voice the Japanese government said was likely that of Goto. It was released online late Wednesday after Jordan offered in principle to swap al-Rishawi for the pilot. It wasn’t clear what Goto’s fate would be if the woman isn’t released.
The Associated Press could not independently verify the contents of the recording, which was distributed on Twitter by Islamic State-affiliated accounts.