Who Is the Terrorist ISIS Wants Released in Prisoner Exchange?

Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman who attempted to carry out a suicide bombing in Jordan, is part of the terrorist network that killed 60 in Amman in November 2005.

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A TV screen depicting ISIS hostages, as well as Sajida al-Rishawi.
A TV screen depicting ISIS hostages, as well as Sajida al-Rishawi.Credit: Reuters

The Islamic State is demanding the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a jailed woman who attempted to carry out a suicide bombing in Jordan in 2005, in exchange for a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian air force pilot the jihadist militia is holding hostage.

Al-Rishawi was born in 1965 and was part of the terrorist network that carried out attacks in the Jordanian capital Amman in November 2005.

The attacks targeted hotels frequented by foreigners and left about 60 people dead.

Al-Rishawi survived because her suicide belt failed to explode at the Radison SAS Hotel, according to Jordanian officials. Her husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, managed to detonate his explosive belt and killed 38 people, mostly guests at a wedding ceremony.

The husband and wife team held Iraqi citizenship.

Al-Rishawi was sentenced to death in 2006, but an appeal process is taking place.

US and Jordanian officials believe the Amman bombings were carried out by a group commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was killed about eight months after the Amman bombings in a United States air raid in Baquba, north of Baghdad.

The Islamic State group claims al-Zarqawi as their spiritual leader and founder. Their publications often feature pictures of al-Zarqawi and his quotes.

In many ways, he has surpassed Osama bin Laden as the main figurehead of the group, especially following the Islamic State's formal eviction from al-Qaeda in 2014.

He is seen as being a major cause of the Iraqi civil war, which erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, stoking sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Tens of thousands died in the war.

Al-Zarqawi's strategy, which was rejected by bin Laden at the time, was to carry out large attacks against Shiites.

The Islamic State took over large parts of Iraq starting in December 2013, seizing Mosul, the country's second city, in June. The group also controls vast swaths of Syria.

Al-Rishawi is believed to be the sister of a former top aide to al-Zarqawi.

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