Family of Jordanian pilot held by Islamic State demands word
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) Worried relatives of a Jordanian fighter pilot asked their government Sunday to be more open about negotiations for his release, after a second Islamic State group hostage was shown beheaded in a video purportedly from the militants.
The fates of the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, previously had been linked. The video of the beheading made no mention of the pilot, raising fears for his life.
"We want the government to tell us the truth," said Yassin Rawashda, an uncle of the pilot.
He said the family is not demanding a full briefing, but wants to hear if release efforts are headed "in a positive direction or not."
The pilot's father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, said he is worried, but still is putting his faith in the government.
"Of course, I'm concerned," he said by telephone. "This is my son. I'm always concerned about him and any development makes me more concerned."
Jordan is reportedly conducting indirect, behind-the-scenes negotiations through tribal leaders in neighboring Iraq.
Last week, Jordan offered to release an al-Qaida prisoner from death row in exchange for the pilot, but the militants didn't say at the time if they were considering such a deal. An audio message last week, purportedly from the Islamic State group, only said the pilot would be killed if the prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, was not delivered to the Turkish border by Thursday.
The deadline passed after Jordan said it cannot release al-Rishawi without proof the pilot is alive. Late Saturday, militant websites released the video purportedly showing Goto's beheading.
In a statement Sunday carried by Jordan's state-run Petra news agency, government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said his country spared no effort to free Goto. Al-Momani also said Jordanian officials will work to confirm the pilot "is still alive and ensure his release and return to Jordan."
Al-Kaseasbeh was captured in December when his F-16 crashed near the de facto capital of the Islamic State group. The militants control about a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in a self-declared caliphate.
Jordan, a staunch Western ally, is part of a U.S.-led military coalition that has carried out airstrikes against Islamic State group targets since September.
King Abdullah II says the campaign against the extremists is a battle over values, but participation in the airstrikes is not popular among Jordanians. The hostage crisis has prompted more vocal criticism of the government position.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.