The effort to free Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian Lt Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh gained urgency with the release of an apparent ultimatum late yesterday from the Islamic State group.
    
In the message, the extremists say the two hostages will be killed within 24 hours on Wednesday Japan time unless Jordan frees Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack on a hotel that killed 60 people.
    
"This was an extremely despicable act and we feel strong indignation. We strongly condemn that," Abe said. "While this is a tough situation, we remain unchanged in our stance of
seeking help from the Jordanian government in securing the early release of Goto."
   
    
About 200 of the pilot's relatives protested outside the Prime Minister's office in the Jordanian capital of Amman, chanting anti-government slogans and urging that it meet the captors' demands.
    
A member of Jordan's parliament said the country was in indirect talks with the militants to secure the hostages' release. Bassam Al-Manasseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg News the negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan won't negotiate directly with IS and won't free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto only.
    
Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Yasuhide Nakayama was in Amman to coordinate hostage-release efforts with Jordan, but refused comment on details of the talks.

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