key players

Here's a look at the three people whose fates hang in the balance.

THE PRISONER

Sajida al-Rishawi, 44, has close family ties to the Iraqi branch of the Al-Qaida terror network that was the forerunner of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. She has not talked about why she strapped on an explosives belt and, along with her husband, walked into a luxury hotel in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 9, 2005. Her husband set off his bomb, ripping through a wedding party with 300 guests, but Al-Rishawi's explosives failed to go off. It was one of three near-simultaneous attacks on Amman hotels that killed 60 people in Jordan's worst terror attack. She is from Ramadi in Iraq's Anbar Province. Three of her brothers were Al-Qaida operatives, including one who served as a top aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late Al-Qaida in Iraq chief.

THE JOURNALIST

Kenji Goto, 47, is not a thrill seeker, his friends and relatives say. He has been covering wars because he is committed to social justice and wants to tell the world about the suffering of people in conflict zones. His wife, Rinko, made a desperate plea, saying their two daughters, a newborn and a 2-year-old, must "grow up knowing their father."

THE PILOT

Since childhood, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, 26, had dreamed of becoming a pilot, but in recent months refused to share his feelings about Jordan's bombing missions against ISIL, his family says. He is one of eight siblings and got married last year. After high school he attended flight college. In 2009, after graduation, he joined the military and began flying warplanes.

Associated Press