Jordan vows earth-shaking revenge against ISIS
Reuters/Feb. 04, 2015
AMMAN: Jordan vowed Tuesday to avenge the death of Lt. Moaz Kassasbeh at the hands of ISIS after the militants released a grisly video showing the pilot’s being burned alive in a cage.
A government official said the authorities would respond by executing several Islamist militants jailed in Jordan, including an Iraqi woman who Amman had sought to swap for the pilot taken captive after his plane crashed in Syria in December.
The video, which showed a man resembling Kassasbeh standing in a black cage before being set ablaze, could not be independently verified but the reaction of the Jordanian authorities made clear they treated it as genuine.
Jordan, which has been mounting air raids in Syria as part of the U.S.-led alliance against ISIS insurgents, would deliver a “strong, earth-shaking and decisive” response, a government spokesman said.
“The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,” army spokesman Col. Mamdouh al-Ameri said in a televised statement confirming the death of the pilot, who was seized by ISIS in December.
The fate of Kassasbeh, a member of a large tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy, has gripped Jordan for weeks and provoked rare protests against King Abdullah over the government’s handling of the crisis.
The king cut short a visit to the U.S. to return home following word of Kassasbeh’s death. In a televised statement, he said the pilot’s killing was an act of “cowardly terror” by a deviant group that has no relation to Islam.
Jordan had sought to swap the pilot for Sajida al-Rishawi, who was sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman that killed 60 people.
ISIS had demanded her release in exchange for the life of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. The beheading of Goto, a veteran war reporter, was shown in a video released by the group Saturday. The Jordanian security source said Rishawi would now be executed “within hours.”
The Jordanian military might also escalate attacks on ISIS, said retired air force Gen. Mamoun Abu Nowar. “We might even see in a couple of days the rate of sorties increased dramatically. We might have some special operations against their leadership too.”
In the video, Kassasbeh is interviewed, describing the mission he was due to carry out before his jet crashed. It also showed footage of the aftermath of airstrikes, with people trying to remove civilians from debris.
Kassasbeh is shown inside the cage with his clothes dampened, apparently with flammable liquid, and one of the masked fighters holds a torch, setting alight a line of fuel which leads into the cage.
The man is set ablaze and kneels to the ground.
Fighters then pour debris, including broken masonry, over the cage which a bulldozer then flattens, with the body still inside. The video showed a desert setting similar to previous videos of killings.
In the pilot’s hometown of Karak in southern Jordan, people demanded revenge. “I want to see Sajida body’s burnt and all the other terrorists in Jordanian prisons. … Only then will my thirst for revenge be satisfied,” said Abdullah al-Majali, a government employee among dozens of demonstrators.
Witnesses said anti-government protests briefly broke out in the town when the death was announced as angry relatives blamed the authorities for failing to save the pilot’s life.
Jordanian state television also announced that he had been killed a month ago, on Jan. 3, fueling speculation that ISIS’ bid to secure Rishawi’s release in exchange for the pilot was insincere.
The White House said the intelligence community was studying when the video was recorded and that President Barack Obama had ordered his team to devote all resources to locate other hostages held by ISIS. Obama praised Kassasbeh for his bravery and said he was “in the vanguard of the effort to degrade and defeat the threat” posed by militants from ISIS.
“Today, the coalition fights for everyone who has suffered from ISIL’s inhumanity. It is their memory that invests us and our coalition partners with the undeterred resolve to see ISIL and its hateful ideology banished to the recesses of history,” Obama said in a statement.
In the video, the burned man wore orange clothes similar to those worn by other foreign captives who have been killed since the U.S.-led coalition started bombing the militants in July.
Separately, Washington announced plans to increase annual aid to Jordan to $1 billion from $660 million to help it pay for the cost of housing refugees from Iraq and Syria and fighting ISIS. A deal on the aid that is subject to Congress approval, was signed before the release of the video of the execution.
In a brief statement, the U.S. State Department said it planned to provide $1 billion per year to Jordan for each of the U.S. fiscal years for 2015, 2016 and 2017. The U.S. fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.