The fate of a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian air force pilot held by Islamic State (IS) militants remains unclear after the passing of a January 29 deadline set by the captors.
Japanese and Jordanian officials were coordinating to learn what was happening to Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary panel on January 30 that his government is “gathering and analyzing information while asking for cooperation from Jordan and other countries, making every effort to free Kenji Goto.”
IS militants posted an audio message purportedly from Goto on YouTube early on January 29.
In the message, a voice speaking in English says Kasasbeh will be killed if an Iraqi would-be bomber is not released by sunset on January 29.
The voice says, "If Sajida al-Rishawi is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset 29th of January Mosul time, the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh will be killed immediately."
Rishawi is on death row in Jordan for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people in the capital, Amman.
The wording of the message did not make clear whether Islamic State militants intended to release either or both hostages in exchange for Rishawi.
But Jordan's government said it would only consider releasing the Iraqi prisoner once it has proof that the Jordanian pilot held by the militants is still alive.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga earlier said the latest video was still being analyzed, but that there was a "high probability" the voice was Goto's.
The message appeared to postpone a previous deadline set in a video issued on January 27 in which Goto said he would be killed within 24 hours if the Iraqi woman was not freed.
Meanwhile, the families of the two captives pleaded for the hostages' lives.
Jawdat al-Kasasbeh, a brother of the Jordanian pilot, said on January 29 that his his family had “received no assurances from anyone that he is alive.”
"We have no clue about where the negotiations stand now. We are waiting, just waiting," he said.
Goto's wife, Rinko Jogo, made her first public appeal for the journalist’s life. She said she had refrained from speaking out earlier in order keep media attention away from the couple’s two daughters, a 2-year-old and an infant.
"I fear that this is the last chance for my husband, and we now have only a few hours left," she said in a January 29 statement.
She said she had exchanged emails with Goto’s captors and that over the past day they had sent a message containing what appeared to be an ultimatum.
"I beg the Jordanian and Japanese governments to understand that the fates of both men are in their hands," she said.
Goto traveled to Syria in October, reportedly to try to secure the release of Haruna Yukawa, his friend and fellow Japanese national who was captured by Islamic State in August.
In the first of three videos purportedly of Goto, released last week, a black-clad man wearing a mask and holding a knife said Goto and Yukawa would be killed within 72 hours if Japan did not pay Islamic State militants $200 million.
A video on January 24 appeared to show Goto with a picture of a decapitated Yukawa, saying his captors' demands had switched to the release of Rishawi.
Kasasbeh's F-16 fighter jet was downed by IS fighters over Syria on December 24, and his subsequent capture and humiliation by jihadists triggered tensions in Jordan, where the country's involvement in the U.S.-led air raids against IS is controversial.
Jordanian King Abdullah II faces growing domestic pressure to bring the pilot home. The pilot's father said he met on January 28 with the king, who he said assured him that "everything will be fine."
Several dozen protesters gathered January 28 outside the royal palace in Amman, chanting, "Listen, Abdullah, the son of Jordan [the pilot] must be returned home."
Islamic State militants have carried out massacres and killed several Western hostages execution-style, sometimes on video, after seizing parts of Iraq and Syria in an offensive last year.
A U.S.-led coalition is targeting IS fighters with air strikes as part of what President Barack Obama has called a campaign to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the militant group.
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters