Islamic State burns Jordanian pilot alive
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Islamic State burns Jordanian pilot alive

After gruesome video released, Jordanian state TV confirms Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh killed on January 3, Amman vows revenge

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Moaz Kasasbeh seen in a video released by the Islamic State on February 3, 2015. (Screen capture: via YouTube)
Moaz Kasasbeh seen in a video released by the Islamic State on February 3, 2015. (Screen capture: via YouTube)

The Islamic State terrorist group released a video Tuesday showing the burning death of captured Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh.

Stills from a video shared on social media appeared to show Kasasbeh standing in a cage and being surrounded by flames, before being consumed.

The spokesman for the Jordanian armed forces confirmed the death of the “hero pilot” and vowed revenge.

“While the military forces mourn the martyr, they emphasize his blood will not be shed in vain. Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians,” Mamdouh al-Ameri said in a statement read on Jordanian TV.

At a tribal meeting place where the pilot’s relatives have waited for weeks for word on his fate, chants against Jordan’s King Abdullah II erupted and some family members wept. An uncle shouted in Arabic: “I received a phone call from the chief of staff saying God bless his soul.”

The pilot’s father, Safi, was surrounded by family members.

Relatives of Jordanian air force pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who crashed in Syria with a F-16 last month, carry posters with his portrait and a slogan reading in Arabic, "we are all Moaz", during a protest near the Prime Minister office in Amman late on January 27, 2015 demanding the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi female suicide bomber on death row in Jordan . (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Relatives of Jordanian air force pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who crashed in Syria with a F-16 last month, carry posters with his portrait and a slogan reading in Arabic, “we are all Moaz”, during a protest near the Prime Minister office in Amman late on January 27, 2015 demanding the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi female suicide bomber on death row in Jordan . (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

In a brief statement, Jordanian state TV said Kasasbeh was killed on January 3.

The video showing Kasabeh’s death was starkly different from previous Islamic State slayings, which showed the brutal group beheading its victims in the middle of the desert.

The Kasasbeh video appeared to have been shot in a city.

The video was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group’s al-Furqan media service. The 20-minute-long video featured the slick production and graphics used in previous videos released by the group.

The video included purported images of the pilot showing signs of having been beaten, including a black eye. At the end of the video he is purportedly shown wearing an orange jumpsuit and standing in an outdoor cage. A masked militant lights a line of fuel leading to the cage.

There was no immediate confirmation of the authenticity of the clip.

A still image released by Islamic State on jihadist websites on December 24, 2014, purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by IS after they shot down a warplane from the US-led coalition near Raqqa, Syria. (photo credit: AFP/HO/Welayat Raqa)
A still image released by Islamic State on jihadist websites on December 24, 2014, purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by IS after they shot down a warplane from the US-led coalition near Raqqa, Syria. (photo credit: AFP/HO/Welayat Raqa)

Kasasbeh was seized after his F-16 crashed near the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria, in December. He was the first foreign military pilot the militants have captured since the coalition began its airstrikes in August.

Jordan had been in talks with the Islamic State for Kasasbeh’s release, in return for failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani told The Associated Press Monday that they were “still ready to hand over” prisoner Rishawi in exchange for the pilot.

Rishawi faces death by hanging in Jordan for her role in a 2005 hotel attack that killed 60 people. She has close family ties to the Iraq branch of al-Qaeda, a precursor of the Islamic State group.

Last Wednesday, the pilot’s father met with Jordan’s king who he said assured him that “everything will be fine.”

The talks had apparently snagged after the Islamic State refused to hand over proof Kasasbeh was alive.

Last week, Jordan threatened to execute IS-affiliated prisoners in their custody if the pilot was not released.

The killing comes less than a week after the Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. A week earlier, the group beheaded Japanese aid worker Haruna Yukawa.

Both killings drew worldwide condemnation.

People look at a large TV screen in Tokyo on January 27, 2015 showing news reports about Japanese men Kenji Goto who has been kidnapped by the Islamic State group. (photo credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP)
People look at a large TV screen in Tokyo on January 27, 2015 showing news reports about Japanese men Kenji Goto who has been kidnapped by the Islamic State group. (photo credit: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP)

King Abdullah II said he would return to Jordan early from a diplomatic trip to the US after the video was released.

He has faced growing domestic pressure to bring the pilot home. However, meeting the Islamic State’s demand for the release of a would-be hotel bomber linked to al-Qaeda would have run counter to the kingdom’s hard-line approach to the extremists.

The release of al-Rishawi, the al-Qaeda-linked prisoner, would also have been a propaganda coup for the Islamic State fighters, who have already overrun large parts of neighboring Syria and Iraq.

Jordan is part of a US-led military alliance that has carried out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq in recent months.

The killing took place as Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh signed an agreement in Washington that will see American aid to Jordan rise from $660 million to $1 billion per year between 2015 to 2017.

The money is subject to congressional approval. It is intended to help Jordan deal with a massive influx of refugees from Syria, support its security and energy needs as well as promote social, political and economic reform.

Participation in the alliance is unpopular in Jordan, and the capture of the pilot has only exacerbated such sentiments, analysts said.

The pilot’s family has been vocal in its criticism of the government.

The Islamic State group broke with al-Qaeda’s central leadership in 2013 and has clashed with its Syrian branch, but it reveres the global terror network’s former Iraqi affiliate, which battled US forces and claimed the 2005 Amman attack.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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