ISIS Executes Jordanian Pilot

Jordan pilot vigil

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ISIS Executes Jordanian Pilot
| published February 3, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


If the beheadings of foreign hostages for shock value has not clearly shown ISIS for the brutality of its methods, its latest apparent execution of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kassasbeh has taken the militant Islamic group to a new level of savagery.

A newly released video circulating on the internet purports to show al-Kaseasbeh, 26, being burned alive while trapped in a metal, cage like structure. U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement condemning this latest atrocity by ISIS.

“Should, in fact, this video be authentic,” the President said, “it’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization. This organization appears only interested in death and destruction.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also released a statement late in the day in which he offered condoloences to al-Kassasbeh's family.

"This horrific, savage killing is yet another example of ISIL's contempt for life itself," Hagel said in the statement.

Al-Kassasbeh’s fighter jet crashed in an ISIS-controlled area of Syria in late December, and images of the young pilot being paraded in ISIS custody appeared soon afterward. Despite high-stakes and complex efforts to free al-Kassasbeh--possibly as part of a trade for a woman named Sajida al-Rishawi, accused of taking part in a series of bombings in Amman, Jordan in 2005 in which more than 60 people died--no such prisoner exchange was successfully brokered. The young Jordanian pilot was also used as leverage by ISIS in its equally oblique negotiations with Japan over the fate of two Japanese hostages, both now dead, who may have been used as pawns in the deadly and unpredictable campaign of terror crafted by ISIS.

The burning of al-Kassasbeh has not been confirmed by any of the major news organizations, but initial reports from intelligence and military analysts indicate that the video appears to be authentic. Jordanian military officials who have reviewed the video, however, have regarded the images as authentic, and have made it clear that they intend to make ISIS pay for this latest atrocity. Top Jordanian military officers have said Jordan’s military will deliver a response which is “strong, earth-shaking, and decisive.”

Al-Kassasbeh’s fate has been the subject of much debate over the last three weeks. Some sources has been reporting to Middle Eastern television stations that the pilot may have already been executed by ISIS as early as the first week of January. During the complex, at times frustrating negotiations over possibly prisoner exchanges, ISIS was never willing—or able—to provide proof-of-life to Jordanian intermediaries or to other go-betweens. This seemed to feed into the rumors that al-Kassasbeh might already be dead.

It is not immediately clear when (reports have emerged suggesting that it was taped on January 3, 2015) the latest video was shot, the person who is killed in the video appears to be al-Kassasbeh. The video shows a man dressed in the orange jumpsuit worn by other ISIS hostages in previous videos, except that in this newest video the man’s clothing is drenched with fluids, apparently gasoline. The prisoner is confined to a metal cage. A masked militant nearby touches a lighted torch to a stream of gas which quickly sets the man ablaze while other heavily armed militants stand nearby watching.

Al-Kassasbeh was a member of one of the major Arabic Jordanian tribes who support the Jordanian monarchy, and as such was considered politically important. As a member of the military—and as a pilot—it would be widely assumed that his customary support for King Abdullah would yield its own rewards socially or politically. For those reasons, Jordan’s interest in rescuing the pilot from ISIS was a top priority, and al-Kassasbeh’s death may cause political turmoil amongst King Abdullah’s followers. Abdullah, seen as a moderate leader in the Middle East, has stressed that the Jordanian people must do whatever is necessary to show allegiance with those who are fighting against ISIS, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that the ISIS extremists are not representative of the majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. Jordan is also a key U.S. ally in a region fraught with tensions and political instability.

ISIS has already executed more than a dozen non-Arab hostages, including American and Japanese journalists, and several British humanitarian workers. ISIS also holds other hostages, an American woman who remains officially unidentified, though her identity is known by the White House, the U.S. State Department, and the CIA.

As recently as last month, ISIS had demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, the woman in the 2005 terror attacks in Jordan, in exchange for Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. But ISIS’s frequently-shifting demands have included a cash payment of $200 million in exchange for Goto, and another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa. Both Yukawa and Goto were executed by beheading.

Related Thursday Review articles:

We Are All Kenji Goto; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 2, 2015.

ISIS Murders Kenji Goto; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; February 1, 2015.