Jordan executes jihadists after murder of pilot

OUTRAGE  Supporters and family members of Jordanian pilot First Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh gather following his reported killing, at the Karak tribal gathering chamber or Diwan, in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday. AFP PHOTO

Supporters and family members of Jordanian pilot First Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh gather following his reported killing, at the Karak tribal gathering chamber or Diwan, in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday. AFP PHOTO

AMMAN, Jordan: Jordan executed two death-row jihadists including an Iraqi woman militant on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) after vowing to avenge the burning alive of one of its fighter pilots by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Would-be Iraqi female suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and Iraqi Al-Qaeda member Ziad al-Karboli were hanged at 4:00 a.m. (2:00 a.m. Thursday Manila time), government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said.

A security source said the executions were carried out at Swaqa prison south of the capital in the presence of an Islamic legal official.

Jordan had promised to begin executing Islamic extremists on death row at daybreak in response to the murder of Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by IS when his plane went down in Syria in December.

Rishawi, 44, was sentenced to death for her participation in deadly attacks in Amman in 2005. IS had offered to spare Kassasbeh’s life and free a Japanese hostage — who was later beheaded — if she were released.

Karboli was sentenced to death in 2007 on terrorism charges, including the killing of a Jordanian in Iraq.

Jordan had on Tuesday vowed to avenge the killing of Kassasbeh, hours after a harrowing video emerged online purporting to show the caged 26-year-old F-16 fighter pilot engulfed in flames.

The video — the most brutal yet in a series of gruesome recorded killings of hostages by IS — prompted global revulsion and vows of continued international efforts to combat the Sunni Muslim extremist group.

The killing sparked outrage in Jordan and demonstrations in Amman and the city of Karak, the home of Kassasbeh’s influential tribe.

Jordan, a crucial ally of Washington in the Middle East, is one of several Arab countries that has joined a US-led coalition of countries carrying out air strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq.

‘Vile murder’
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who was visiting Washington as the video came to light, described Kassasbeh as a hero and vowed to take the battle to IS.

The army and government promised to avenge the pilot’s murder, with Momani saying: “Jordan’s response will be earth-shattering.”

US President Barack Obama, who hosted Abdullah in a hastily organised Oval Office meeting, led international condemnation of the murder, decrying the “cowardice and depravity” of IS.

“The president and King Abdullah reaffirmed that the vile murder of this brave Jordanian will only serve to steel the international community’s resolve to destroy ISIL,” a National Security Council spokesman said after the pair met, using an alternative name for IS.

The Obama administration had earlier reaffirmed its intention to give Jordan $3 billion in security aid over the next three years.

Kassasbeh was captured in December when his jet crashed over northern Syria on a mission that was part of the coalition air campaign against the jihadists.

Jordanian state television suggested he was killed on January 3, before IS offered to spare his life and free Japanese journalist Kenji Goto in return for Rishawi’s release.

The highly choreographed 22-minute video released on Tuesday shows Kassasbeh at a table recounting coalition operations against IS, with flags from the various Western and Arab countries in the alliance projected in the background.

It then shows Kassasbeh dressed in an orange jumpsuit and surrounded by armed and masked IS fighters in camouflage.

It cuts to him standing inside a cage and apparently soaked in petrol before a masked jihadist lights a trail of flame that runs to the cage and burns him alive.

‘Misguided ideology’
Saudi Arabia, the spiritual home of Islam and another member of the coalition, condemned the “misguided ideology” behind Kassasbeh’s killing and accused groups like IS of seeking “to distort the values of Islam.”

“[Saudi Arabia] urges the international community to intensify its efforts to fight terrorism in all its forms,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

IS had previously beheaded two US journalists, an American aid worker and two British aid workers in similar videos.

Shiraz Maher, from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College, London, described the latest footage as “simply the most horrific, disgusting thing I have seen from Islamic State in the last two years.”

“This is the first individual whom they have captured who has been directly involved with the Western coalition in fighting IS. It is different from the aid workers. This is an act of belligerence,” he added.

IS has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and last year declared a “caliphate” in areas under its control, imposing its brutal interpretation of Islam and committing widespread atrocities.

Kassasbeh was the first coalition serviceman captured since it launched strikes against IS last year.

In an editorial on Wednesday, the Jordan Times said the country would rally against the pilot’s “ruthless” and “cruel” murder.

“Jordanians today stand united with the family of the slain pilot — who is now the son of all Jordanians — with their armed forces and with their leadership,” it said.


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