Daesh released a new audio recording purporting to be Jihadist Salafist figure Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi negotiating a prisoner exchange for Jordanian Pilot Muath Kasasbeh in January, Al Khaleej News Agency reported.
The January 5 recording purports to be communication between al-Maqdisi and Daesh spokesman Abu Muhamed al-Adnani via the mobile messaging program Whatsapp, although the audio clip itself does not state the identity of the Daesh representative, nor has the Jordanian goverment confirmed the other voice is that of Maqdisi's. Several YouTube channels carrying the audio clip have since been disabled and the recording taken down.
Jordanian authorities sought the religous speaker's help in mediating negotiations to release Kasasbeh, whose grisly execution was released in a slickly-produced Daesh video on February 3.
Largely regarded as the most influential, living salafist-jihadi cleric, al-Maqdisi had spent months in Jordanian detention without trial over statements labeling the coalition airstrikes against Daesh as a “crusader war” and describing the Arab army participants as “apostate armies.”
Jordan announced his release a few days after Daesh's video rolled through the Hashemite Kingdom and Kasasbeh was confirmed dead.
But the negotiation clip suggests he was instead released a month earlier, only a few days after the late December capture of Kasasbeh.
In one message, the cleric says, “I was released from prison a few days ago thanks to God. I have isolated myself from the public. . . as I am concentrating now on trying to reach a deal that is of legitimate interest to you."
In another, Daesh accuses al-Maqdisi of being an agent of Jordanian and American intelligence services, and called him " an impediment to jihad.. and the goals of Islamic caliphate."
Jordanian authorities had been working toward a release deal for Kasasbeh which the 26-year-old pilot could be swapped for al-Qaeda-linked Iraqi prisoner Shajida Rishawi, who was facing the death penalty in Jordan for her role in a string of hotel bombings in 2005 in the capital Amman.
In addition to her role in the hotel bombings, Rishawi was a close connection of the late al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who organizaed the Amman attacks and was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad. Daesh had initially demanded her released in exchange for captive Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto.
Jordan executed Rishawi and fellow al-Qaeda affiliate Ziad al-Karbouli the day after Kasasbeh's execution video was released in what the goverment said was the beginning of an "earth-shaking" revenge campaign against Daesh.
In the recording, al-Maqdisi tells Daesh militants that Rishawi’s life is “in your hands” and emphasizes that he is mediating for her sake and not that of the pilot. He further urges Daesh to accept his proposal so as not to lose support in Jordan by executing the pilot.
Though he publicly declared Daesh leaders “ignorant” after they first announced the establishment of the “Caliphate” last June, al-Maqdisi urges the group's spokesperson to put aside their personal prejudice against him during the recorded negotiations, saying he would praise Daesh if they were to exchange Kasasbeh for their “Jihadi sister” Rishawi.
In addition to the details regarding attempted negotiations for Kasasbeh, the audio recording indicates that al-Maqdisi also worked with a team of US and Jordanian intelligence personnel along with American lawyer Stanley Kohen to try and secure the release of American aid worker hostage Peter Kassig, who was beheaded by Daesh last November.
The US has led a bombing campaign against the group in Iraq and Syria since last September, with air support in wartorn Syria given by allied Arab countries including Jordan, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
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