Jordan is willing to swap an Iraqi woman prisoner involved in a deadly 2005 hotel bombing for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by the Islamic State, a government spokesman said today. Such a swap would run counter to Jordan’s hard-line approach toward Islamic militants and to the position of its main ally, the United States, not to negotiate with extremists. An exchange also would set a precedent for negotiating with Islamic State militants who in the past have not publicly demanded prisoner releases. However, Jordan’s government faces domestic pressure to bring Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh home, while its participation in a US-led military coalition against ISIS is widely unpopular among Jordanians.
The government spokesman, Mohammed al-Momani, did not say whether a swap would actually take place. He also made no mention of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who is also being held by ISIS. Efforts to release the pilot and the journalist gained urgency with the release late yesterday of a purported online ultimatum claiming ISIS would kill both hostages within 24 hours if the Iraqi woman was not freed. Sajida al-Rishawi was sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack by al-Qaeda on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people. Her release would be a major propaganda coup for ISIS.