ISIS burns Jordanian pilot alive

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Beirut, SANA

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist organization (ISIS) said Tuesday it has burned alive the Jordanian captive, pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh in a video released the same day.

The video shows a trail of lit gasoline leading to al-Kasasbeh’s cage, which engulfs him in flames.

Al-Kasasbeh was captured by ISIS in December after his F-16 crashed on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria.

ISIS said last month it would release al-Kasasbeh if Jordan freed terrorist Sajida al-Rishawi, who has been jailed in the Jordanian prisons since 2005.

Shortly after the release of the video, Jordan said al-Kasasbeh was killed exactly one month earlier, 3rd of January and vowed to sentence al-Rishawi to death.

Mohammad Nassr/ Mazen Eyon

ISIS burns alive Jordanian pilot it kept hostage

The Islamic State has released a video, purportedly showing Moath al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot captured in December, being burned alive. The Jordanian government had pleaded with IS to release the hostage in exchange for a captured terrorist.

A member of al-Kasasbeh’s family has been informed by the head of the Jordanian armed forces that he has been killed, Reuters reported. According to national television, Jordan now believes he was executed as far back as January 3, exactly one month ago, though the government has refused to directly confirm the news to Western news agencies.

The video itself, which was posted on social media, but is not being shared by RT for ethical reasons, appears to have been a carefully staged production, shot from several angles, and sound tracked with religious hymns. It shows al-Kasasbeh being led out into a square in front of a squadron of masked men, before being placed in a cage. A rope lying outside the cage is then lit up, and the hostage is engulfed in flames. The execution is in contrast with the customary beheadings, practiced by the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

Al-Kasasbeh was captured after his plane crashed over an IS-controlled part of Syria, following a bombing mission on December 24. The US-led air strikes in the region since September have helped stem IS expansion through Syria and Iraq.

In the past few weeks, Al-Kasasbeh and two Japanese captives have been part of failed negotiations between the Islamic State and Japanese and Jordanian governments.

The Islamic State had first demanded $200 million then the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, a female Iraqi Al-Qaeda militant, who is imprisoned in Iran, in exchange for the release of journalist Kenji Goto, and security expert Haruna Yukawa.

Jordan had agreed to let al-Rishawi go, but only if al-Kasasbeh was included in the deal. But by then, he may have already been dead, and the Islamic State simply executed its Japanese hostages without receiving their ransom.

Washington, which is a close ally of Jordan, has condemned the killing of al-Kasasbeh, who was flying a US-made F-16, when he either crashed, or was shot down.

“Whatever ideology they [IS] is operating off of, it’s bankrupt,” President Barack Obama told the media in Washington, saying the video showcased the “viciousness and barbarity” of the fundamentalist group.

“The United States strongly condemns ISIL’s actions and we call for the immediate release of all those held captive by ISIL,” said a statement from White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan, using another acronym for Islamic State.

The Administration has requested $8.8 billion in its 2016 budget to fight the Islamic State.

Jordan vows ‘revenge’ for ISIS execution of pilot hostage

Jordan will execute failed suicide bomber Sajida Al-Rishawi “within hours”, as revenge for the ISIS killing of hostage pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh, a security official told AFP. Earlier, Jordan offered to swap the two prisoners.

“The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,” army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said in a televised statement as cited by Reuters, after a video surface of the pilot being burned alive. A government spokesman promised a “strong, earth-shaking and decisive” response to the execution.

King Abdullah II has cut short his visit to the US, while the country has declared three days of mourning for the “martyr and hero” al-Kasasbeh, who was taken hostage after his plane came down during a bombing raid on IS positions on December 24.

In a statement, the monarch, who has ruled Jordan since 1999, called the immolation an act of “cowardly terror” and said that ISIS “had nothing in common with true Islam.”

Funeral prayers will be held in all mosques in the Middle Eastern state, and there have been reports of rambunctious demonstrations in Karak, the hometown of the slain pilot.

Local media has reported that five jihadists, who are on death row, are being transferred to a prison south of the capital Amman, where executions take place. Earlier, Jordan threatened to execute Islamic State associates if al-Kasasbeh was not handed back alive.

Al-Rishawi, who is considered a martyr by ISIS, unsuccessfully attempted to detonate herself during the al-Qaeda attacks on Jordan a decade ago that killed 60 people, and has been awaiting her death sentence since the subsequent trial.

Despite protracted negotiations to release al-Kasasbeh, and two Japanese journalists – who have also been executed – Jordan now believes that the F-16 pilot was killed exactly one month ago, on January 3.

Ally United States, which promised “ironclad support” after setting up an emergency meeting between King Abdullah and Vice-President Joe Biden, says experts are now studying the professionally-produced video, to ascertain whether it is authentic, and if so, when it was recorded.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has condemned the Islamic State, saying that that the public execution was evidence of “barbarism and viciousness,” and vowing to “banish their hateful ideology to the recesses of history.”

“Whatever ideology they [IS] is operating off of, it’s bankrupt,” the US leader told the media, promising to dedicate “all resources” to locating remaining hostages, held by the radical Islamists, who control large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

The White House announced that it would raise its budget for aid to Jordan from $660 to $1 billion, to house refugees from nearby conflicts, and to fight off the Islamic State.