AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan is willing to swap an Iraqi woman prisoner involved in a deadly 2005 hotel bombing for a Jordanian pilot captured in December by extremists from the Islamic State group, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
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 group militants who in the past have not publicly demanded prisoner releases.
However, Jordan's government faces domestic pressure to bring the pilot home, while its participation in a U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State group 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 the Islamic State group.
Efforts to release the pilot and the journalist gained urgency with the release late Tuesday of a purported online ultimatum claiming the Islamic State group would kill both hostages within 24 hours if the Iraqi woman was not freed.
On Wednesday, al-Momani said that "Jordan is ready to release the Iraqi prisoner, Sajida al-Rishawi, if the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, is released unharmed." His comments were carried by Jordan's official Petra news agency.
Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack by al-Qaida on hotels in Amman that killed 60 people. Her release would be a major propaganda coup for the Islamic State group.
Jordan is reportedly in indirect talks with the militants through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq to secure the hostages' release.
The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Jordan's parliament, Bassam Al-Manasseer, has been quoted as saying that Jordan and Japan would not negotiate directly with the Islamic State group and would not free al-Rishawi for the Japanese hostage only.
Earlier Wednesday, the mother of the Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, appealed publicly to Japan's premier to save her son.
The mother, Junko Ishido, read to reporters her plea to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which she said she sent after both Abe and Japan's main government spokesman declined to meet with her.
"Please save Kenji's life," Ishido said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government until the very end to try to save Goto.
"Kenji has only a little time left," she said.
AFP / Getty Imag displaying her suicide belt during a televised confession Nov. 13, 2005. ISIS is willing to trade a Japanese hostage for the Iraqi woman who was sentenced to hang in Jordan for her role as a failed suicide bomber in a massive terrorist attack on Amman.
Later Wednesday, a few dozen people gathered in front of the prime minister's official residence, holding banners and placards expressing their hopes for Goto's release.
"I have been trying to keep my hopes up and believe that Mr. Goto will return. I have this faith within me," said Seigo Maeda, a 46-year-old friend of Goto's.
In Jordan, the pilot's father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, beseeched his government late Tuesday "to meet the demands" of the Islamic State group.
"All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Mu'ath means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Mu'ath means chaos in Jordan," he told The Associated Press.
When the ISIS terrorist known as Jihadi John made his first appearance in a video message to the West, his demands were tactical and military. His American hostage would only be spared, he said, if America stopped its bombing campaign.
Last week marked a shift toward financial demands, as he told Japan that two of its citizens, Haruna Yukawa, 42, and Kenji Goto, 47, would only be spared in exchange for a ransom of $200-million.
Then this weekend, in a video that seems to show Mr. Yukawa has already been beheaded, the ISIS demands shifted yet again.