Jordan Responds Swiftly To Pilot’s Grisly Death At The Hand Of ISIS

By Krishnadev Calamur NPR

Updated at 10:50 p.m. ET

A video from the self-declared Islamic State militant group shows Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath Kaseasbeh, who had been held by the group since his capture in December, being burned alive.

Reporter Alison Meuse tells our Newscast unit about the video. Please note that the description is graphic. Meuse says:

“The video begins with videos of Jordan’s king meeting with President Obama and pledging his country’s support in the fight against the Islamic State. The video paints the Arab monarchy as a puppet of the West and an enemy of Muslims. A montage of newscasts announce the Jordanian pilot’s capture when his F-16 crashed in northern Syria. Then the scene changes. We see 1st Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh walking in an orange jumpsuit past a firing squad. He is put inside a metal cage. In slow motion, one of the masked men lights a fuse that engulfs his body in flames. We hear the pilot’s tormented screams as Islamic chants play in the background. Eventually, his blackened body kneels, seemingly lifeless. A plow buries the cage in rubble.”

Jordan’s state television confirmed the death; it also said that Kaseasbeh was killed Jan. 3 — one month ago. In a statement read on Jordanian TV, Mamdouh al-Ameri, a spokesman for the Jordanian armed forces, vowed “punishment and revenge” for Kaseasbeh’s killing.

That response appeared to begin early Wednesday in Jordan, The Associated Press reported, as two prisoners were executed, including the Iraqi woman who recently had been sought by the Islamic State in exchange for Kaseasbeh — though he is now believed to have been dead for weeks.

Sajida al-Rishawi was a would-be suicide bomber who was sentenced to death in 2005 in connection with a hotel bombing in Amman, Jordan’s capital, that killed at least 57.

The second prisoner executed before dawn on Wednesday, Ziad al-Karbouly, was sentenced to death in 2008 for planning attacks on Jordanians in Iraq, the AP reported.

Jordan’s King Abdullah met with President Obama and Vice President Joe
Biden on Tuesday before cutting his U.S. visit short and returning home. Earlier today, the U.S. pledged to nearly double aid to Jordan — pending congressional approval — from $600 million to $1 billion.

Kaseasbeh’s fate was unclear until today. As recently as Jan. 29, Jordan had sought proof the pilot was alive, saying it was willing to trade Kaseasbeh, 26, for Rishawi. The Islamic State had demanded her release before sunset on that day.

Kaseasbeh was captured after his F-16 fighter jet went down over northern Syria during an airstrike as part of the U.S.-led effort against the Islamic State. His capture led to questions in Jordan over whether the country should be part of the coalition against the militant group.

Today’s video was released just days after the Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist. Another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa, was killed last month.

President Obama said the video of Kaseasbeh’s immolation was “just one more indication of viciousness and barbarity” on the part of the Islamic State. Later, in a statement, he said Kaseasbeh “will forever personify the bravery of a true son of Jordan, one who honored his family and country by his seven years of military service.”

A statement from Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the agency is working to confirm the video’s authenticity, but called the events the video purportedly depicts “murder.”

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