Jordan executed two Iraqi prisoners a day after Islamic State militants released a video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive inside of a cage.
One of the convicted prisoners executed early on Wednesday was Sajida Al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber who took part in deadly 2005 attacks on hotels in Amman, the state-run Petra news agency reported. Jordan also hanged Ziad Karbuli, who had been sentenced to death in 2007 for terrorist acts.
Jordan planned to take several measures in the “next few hours” in revenge for the killing of the pilot, government spokesman Mohammad Momani said in Amman late Tuesday.
Al-Kasassbeh is the latest captive to be executed by Islamic State, which says it’s punishing countries that joined the U.S.-led military campaign to crush its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The group said it killed two Japanese hostages to castigate Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for offering $200 million in non-military aid to countries suffering from Islamic State.
Islamic State militants had demanded Al-Rishawi’s release in a Jan. 24 video, saying it would kill Kenji Goto, one of the Japanese hostages, and the pilot, Moath al-Kasassbeh, if Jordan didn’t hand her over. The group released a video on Feb. 1 purportedly showing the beheading of Japanese journalist Goto, without mentioning the pilot.
Cutting visit short
Al-Kasassbeh was captured by Islamic State in December when his plane crashed in Syria during a bombing run against the group. A video showed him being burned to death in a cage, according to Maryland-based analysis firm SITE Intel Group, which monitors posts by militant groups.
Jordan’s King Abdullah cut short a visit to Washington where he met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday. In a television address, he called for national unity as demonstrators took to the streets with calls to avenge the pilot’s death.
“It is the duty of all to be united,” King Abdullah said in an address to Jordanians on state television. He said al-Kasassbeh had “died defending his religion and nation.”
Clashes broke out in Al-Kasassbeh’s home town of Karak, where angry locals fired in the air and shouted condemnation of Islamic State, and security in the area was stepped up, according to television footage. Protesters burned down a municipal building, according to khaberni.com. a local news website.
There were protests in Amman too. Hundreds of Jordanians held a sit-in near the diwan, or council-chamber, of the pilot’s tribe, while others blocked a main street chanting “we want revenge.”
Jordan had been in negotiations in the past week with Islamic State over the fate of Al-Kasassbeh and the Japanese journalist. The militants said they would spare Al-Kasassbeh’s life and release Goto, if Al-Rishawi was freed. Jordan demanded the pilot be included in the swap and that the group provide proof he was still alive. That proof never came.
The video didn’t say when al-Kasassbeh was killed. The Jordanian army, in a statement broadcast on national television, said it happened a month ago, without saying how it got the information. The army vowed to “take revenge against the criminals” responsible for his death.
Obama, before his meeting with the king, told reporters in Washington that the video was “one more indication of the viciousness” of Islamic State and “will redouble the vigor and determination” of international efforts to combat the group.
The group has has also released videos showing women being stoned to death for what they say was adultery and men being thrown off rooftops after claiming they were gay, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The pilot’s death may “work against” Islamic State militants by strengthening the resolve of governments in Arab countries like Jordan to defeat the group, according to Kamran Bokhari, an adviser for Middle Eastern and South Asian affairs at Texas-based consulting firm Stratfor.
“The Arab governments will strike harder,” Bokhari said by phone. “If countries become scared, that will make them look really bad and they cannot afford that.”
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, said the “heinous and obscene act represents a brutal escalation by the terrorist group, whose evil objectives have become apparent,” according to the country’s WAM news agency.
Sheikh Abdullah said the death marked a “defining moment that reaffirms the sound U.A.E. position and the international coalition on strongly tackling all forms and manifestations of extremism and terrorism without hesitation.”