February 4, 2015
Jordan hanged two Iraqi jihadists, one a woman, on Wednesday in response to an Islamic State video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage by the hard-line group.
Islamic State had demanded the release of the woman, Sajida al-Rishawi, in exchange for a Japanese hostage whom it later beheaded. Sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack in Amman, Rishawi was executed at dawn, a security source and state television said.
Jordan, which is part of the U.S.-led alliance against Islamic State, has promised an “earth-shaking response” to the killing of its pilot, Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured in December when his F-16 warplane crashed over northeastern Syria.
Jordan also executed a senior al Qaeda prisoner, Ziyad Karboli, an Iraqi man who was sentenced to death in 2008.
The fate of Kasaesbeh, a member of a large tribe that forms the backbone of support for the country’s Hashemite monarchy, has gripped Jordan for weeks and some Jordanians have criticized King Abdullah for embroiling them in the U.S.-led war that they say will provoke a militant backlash.
King Abdullah cut short an official visit to the United States on Tuesday. In a televised statement to the nation, he urged national unity and said the killing was a cowardly act of terror by a criminal group that has no relation to Islam.
Muslim clerics across the Middle East, even those sympathetic to the jihadist cause, also expressed outrage, saying such a form of killing was considered despicable by Islam.
SHOCK AND ANGER
There was widespread shock and anger in Jordan at the brutality of a killing that drew international condemnation.
Kasaesbeh’s father said the two executions were not enough and urged the government to do more to avenge his death.
“I want the state to get revenge for my son’s blood through more executions of those people who follow this criminal group that shares nothing with Islam,” Safi al-Kasaesbeh told Reuters.
“Jordanians are demanding that the state and coalition take revenge with even more painful blows to destroy these criminals,” he said.
The Jordanian army has vowed to avenge his death, and some analysts believe it could escalate its involvement in the campaign against Islamic State, which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, Jordan’s neighbors to the north and east.
In the pilot’s home village of Ay, mourners said Jordanians must rally around the state. “Today we put our differences behind us and rally behind the king and nation,” said Jabar Sarayrah, a shopkeeper.
The prisoners were executed in Swaqa prison, 70 km (45 miles) south of Amman, just before dawn, a security source who was familiar with the case said. “They were both calm and showed no emotions and just prayed,” the source added without elaborating.
The Jordanian pilot is the first from the coalition known to have been captured and killed by Islamic State.
Jordan is a major U.S. ally in the fight against hardline Islamist groups and hosted U.S. troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is home to hundreds of U.S. military trainers bolstering defenses at the Syrian and Iraqi borders, and is determined to keep the jihadists in Syria away from its frontier.
Rishawi, in her mid-forties, was part of an al Qaeda network that targeted three Amman hotels in suicide bombings in 2005. She was meant to die in one of the attacks – the worst in Jordan’s history – but her suicide bomb belt did not go off.
Jordan said on Tuesday the pilot had been killed a month ago. The government had been picking up intelligence for weeks that the pilot was killed some time ago, a source close to the government said.
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