Amman: Jordan remains "as committed as ever" to a US-led military coalition against the Islamic State group, the kingdom's foreign minister said late Sunday, amid heightened fears for the life of a Jordanian fighter pilot held by the militants.
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh spoke a day after another Islamic State hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, was purportedly beheaded by the militants. The fate of the two captives had been linked but a video of Goto's purported slaying made no mention of the pilot.
The killing of 47-year-old Goto shocked Japan which until now had not been directly embroiled in the battle against extremists.
"I feel indignation over this immoral and heinous act of terrorism," said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In a phone call with Abe, Jordan's King Abdullah II condemned the killing as a "criminal act."
Japan responded to new threats from the militants by ordering tighter security at airports and at Japanese facilities overseas, including embassies and schools. Japan said it would not budge from its non-military support for fighting terrorism.
The failure to save Goto raised new concerns about the fate of the pilot, Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh. Jordan's government renewed an offer today to trade Sajida al-Rishawi, an al-Qaida prisoner, for the pilot. Al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber, faces death by hanging in Jordan for her role in a 2005 hotel attack that killed 60 people.
The Islamic State group demanded her release last week, and in response Jordan offered to swap her for the pilot. But the militants did not 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 al-Rishawi was not released Thursday.
That deadline passed, with al-Rishawi remaining in custody, after Jordan said it cannot free her without proof that the pilot is alive.
Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said today that "we are still ready to hand over" al-Rishawi in return for the pilot. However, Judeh, the foreign minister, said that "so far, we have seen no proof of life, which we have been asking for."
Judeh said Jordan, a staunch Western ally, is not second-guessing its participation in the military coalition over the hostage drama.