Jordan has announced it would execute a failed female suicide bomber and other Al-Qaeda linked fighters in retaliation for the murder of their pilot, Lieutenant Moaz Kasaesbeh, after a video was released of him being burned alive by ISIS.
Officials reacted furiously to the pictures and film, which surpassed anything yet witnessed in ISIS “execution videos”.
They were specifically angry as the unorthodox method of death seemed to confirm reports that he had been killed some weeks ago. There had been rumours in early January that he had been burnt alive, and officials said yesterday night they now believed he died on January 3.
That made a mockery of ISIS’s demands last week that the female suicide bomber, Sajida al-Rishawi, be released in return for Lt Kasaesbeh’s safety, as well as the release of Kenji Goto, the Japanese journalist.
That deal fell through after ISIS were unable to provide Jordan with proof of life of the pilot, and Mr Goto’s killing was confirmed on Saturday night.
Jordanian authorities were also under immense pressure from Lt Kasaesbeh’s influential Bedouin tribe, loyal to King Abdullah, which was demanding everything possible be done for his release.
They had held demonstrations holding up placards with his face in front of government offices. On Tuesday night, there were reports of angry crowds gathering in his home town of Karak, south of the capital Amman.
His father had been caught on camera as he was told the news of his son’s death over a mobile phone by the army’s chief of staff during a filmed tribal gathering.
“The military forces announce that the hero pilot, Moaz al-Kasaesbeh, has fallen as a martyr, and ask God to accept him with the martyrs,” the Jordanian military spokesman, Gen. Mamdouh al-Ameri, said on state television after the pictures were circulated by jihadi social media forums.
“While the military forces mourn the martyr, they emphasise his blood will not be shed in vain. Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians.”
In the video, Lt Kasaesbeh is seen being led into in a cage, watched by a line of ISIS fighters in khaki outfits and masks. As he appears to pray, one ISIS fighter, “Emir Ahmed”, steps forward to light the fuse stretching out across the ground.
The British executioner “Jihadi John” made no appearance, nor were there any English subtitles, as with videos of previous killings – indicating that this was a message being sent to the Arab world.
However, Lt Kasaesbeh is made to describe the operation which preceded his plane being brought down on December 24 last year, and footage is shown of people being pulled from the wreckage of a bombing raid.
Lt Kasaesbeh then stands erect in a cage as oil that has been poured around him burns and consumes him. At the end, the cage and his remains are bulldozed.
King Abdullah II of Jordan cut short a visit to Washington with his foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, to return to the capital, Amman.
“This cowardly Islamic State group that does not resemble our religion in any way,” King Abdullah said.
“It is the duty of all Jordanian citizens to stand united, to show the strength of this people in fighting this group. This will only give us more strength and resistance.”
President Barack Obama said the video was “just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organisation.” “This organisation is only interested in death and destruction,” he said.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said: “Moaz al Kasaesbeh’s sickening murder will only strengthen our resolve to defeat Isil. My prayers are with his family tonight.”
Lt Kasaesbeh was captured after being shot down near the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa, the first member of the anti-ISIS coalition to be captured. Footage released from the scene showed ISIS fighters dragging him half-naked from nearby Lake Tabqa.
Rumours of his death by burning were circulated by the Twitter account of an anti-ISIS group outside of Raqqa on January 9. It said that ISIS members had been heard “talking enthusiastically” about the killing.
The negotiations last week over Mr Goto’s fate were a roller-coaster of expectations for the families of both men.
At one stage, it looked as if Mr Goto would be freed imminently, after he was offered in exchange for Rishawi by ISIS and Jordan said it was prepared to release her.
However, Jordan also demanded the pilot’s freedom, a demand to which ISIS gave no public response. Instead, they said the pilot would be killed if Rishawi were not released, and Mr Goto “after”.
Rishawi has languished on death row since being arrested shortly after the hotel bombings, which her husband, Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, a senior operative of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), organised.
The couple went together to the Radisson Hotel in Amman as a wedding party was being held. Her husband’s vest detonated, killing him and 37 others, including the parents of the bride and the father of the groom, but hers failed to go off.
Her brother, named as Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi, was said to be a senior aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who founded AQI, which later developed to ISIS. Both men were subsequently killed in American raids.
The Jordanian response was immediate.
“The sentence of death pending on Iraqi Sajida al-Rishawi will be carried out at dawn,” a security official told local media.
Officials said four other jihadists, including “Iraqi al-Qaeda operative Ziad Karbuli”, would also have their death sentences implemented immediately.