Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants burned a captured Jordanian pilot to death in a cage, according to a purported video of the violence released Tuesday. The kingdom, which had vowed a swift and lethal response, executed two al-Qaeda prisoners by hanging early Wednesday.
The pilot’s gruesome death sparked outrage and anti-ISIS group demonstrations in Jordan. The video emerged after a weeklong drama over a possible prisoner exchange for a female al-Qaeda operative imprisoned in Jordan who was one of the two prisoners executed.
The Jordanian military confirmed the death of 26-year-old Lt. Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, who was captured by the extremists in December when his F-16 crashed while he was flying a mission as part of the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State group.
In a first response to the killing of the pilot, Jordan executed Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouly, two Iraqis linked to al-Qaeda, government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said. Another official said they were executed by hanging.
The executions took place at Swaqa prison about 80 kilometres south of the Jordanian capital of Amman. At sunrise, two ambulances carrying the bodies of al-Rishawi and al-Karbouly drove away from the prison with security escorts.
Over the past week, Jordan had offered to trade al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber, for the pilot, but froze any swap after failing to receive any proof that the pilot was still alive. Jordanian TV said the pilot was killed as long ago as Jan. 3.
Al-Rishawi had been sentenced to death after her 2005 role in a triple hotel bombing that killed 60 people in Amman orchestrated by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of the Islamic State group. Al-Karbouly was sent to death row in 2008 for plotting terror attacks on Jordanians in Iraq.
Al-Kaseasbeh had fallen into the hands of the militants when his F-16 crashed near Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the group’s self-styled caliphate.
In the 20-minute video purportedly showing his killing, he displayed signs of having been beaten, including a black eye. Toward the end of the clip, he is shown wearing an orange jumpsuit. He stands in an outdoor cage as a masked militant ignites a line of fuel leading to it.
The video, which threatened other purported Jordanian pilots by name, was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group’s al-Furqan media service. The clip featured the slick production and graphics used in previous Islamic State videos. The video could not immediately be confirmed independently by The Associated Press.
The killing of the 26-year-old airman appeared aimed at pressuring the government of Jordan — a close U.S. ally — to leave the coalition.
At their White House meeting, the Jordanian monarch and Obama affirmed that “the vile murder of this brave Jordanian will only serve to steel the international community’s resolve to destroy ISIL,” said White House spokesman Alistair Baskey, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.
Abdullah, who was on a previously scheduled trip to Washington, arrived after nightfall Tuesday and made no remarks to reporters as he and Obama sat side by side in the Oval Office.
In a statement before his meeting with Abdullah, Obama vowed the pilot’s death would “redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of our global coalition to make sure they are degraded and ultimately defeated.”
Abdullah has portrayed the campaign against the extremists as a battle over values. In a speech Tuesday night on Jordanian state television, he urged his countrymen to unite.
“It’s the duty of all of us to stand united and show the real values of Jordanians in the face of these hardships,” Abdullah said. The official Petra news agency said he would be cutting short his Washington trip to return to Jordan.
The army spokesman, Mamdouh al-Ameri, said the country would strike back hard. “Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians,” he said.
((Sourced from CBC))