Arab world condemns Jordanian pilot's killing
WHEN relatives learnt on Tuesday night that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had released a video showing the death of Jordanian fighter pilot Muath Al-Kasaesbeh, they tried to keep it from his mother, Issaf, and his wife, Anwar.
They switched off the television and tried to wrest a smartphone out of his wife's hand, but she had already seen a mobile news bulletin.
Ms Anwar ran crying into the street, calling her husband's name and saying: "Please God, let it not be true." Madam Issaf fell to the floor screaming, pulled her headscarf off and started tearing at her hair.
That was before they knew how he had been killed. No one dared let them know right away that First Lieutenant Kasaesbeh's tormentors had apparently burned him alive inside a cage, a killing that was soon described as the most brutal in the group's bloody history.
Jordan responded rapidly, executing Sajida Al-Rishawi, who was convicted after attempting a suicide bombing, and Ziyad Karboli, a top lieutenant of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, before dawn yesterday, according to the official news agency Petra.
On Tuesday, Ms Anwar had been laughing at the memory of her husband's delight when he discovered that her family kept rabbits in their home. After they married, her parents gave them the rabbits to take care of.
"It was so funny, he was so happy about those rabbits," she told a visiting reporter about her 26-year-old husband. "He told me how he always wanted rabbits."
The video, with its references to ISIS' punishment of nations like Jordan that joined the United States-led coalition against it, appeared to be an attempt to cow the Arab nations and other countries that have agreed to battle the militants in Syria.
So far, it appeared to have had the opposite effect in Jordan, possibly stiffening its resolve.
Jordan had promised to begin executing Islamic extremists on death row in response to the murder of the pilot, who was captured by ISIS when his plane went down in Syria in December.
Egypt-based Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious seat of learning, called for the "killing, crucifixion and chopping of the limbs of (ISIS) terrorists" after the airman's murder.
But the capture of the pilot had already hurt the coalition, with the United Arab Emirates suspending its own air strikes last month and demanding that the group improve its search and rescue efforts for captured members.
The release of the video came after weeks of growing anxiety in Jordan, as the country's leaders tried desperately to win the release of Lt Kasaesbeh, a member of an important tribe and the first fighter for the coalition bombing ISIS to be captured. Their attempts became more complicated late last month, when ISIS suddenly entangled the pilot's fate with that of a Japanese man it had held hostage, demanding that Jordan release Al-Rishawi in exchange for him.
If Jordan failed to do so by last Thursday, they had said, Lt Kasaesbeh would be killed. Jordanian officials expressed willingness to bargain, a major concession to the militants, but refused to release Al-Rishawi until they received proof that the pilot was alive.
On Tuesday, Jordanian officials said they learned that the pilot had actually been killed on Jan 3, suggesting that their caution had been justifiable. They did not, however, explain where they got the information.
Saudi Arabia, the spiritual home of Islam and another member of the coalition, condemned the "misguided ideology" behind Lt Kasaesbeh's killing and accused groups like ISIS of seeking "to distort the values of Islam".
The UAE said the actions of ISIS "represent epidemics that must be eradicated by civilised societies without delay".
Iran condemned the "inhuman and un-Islamic act".
Syria urged Jordan to work with it to fight ISIS and Al-Qaeda's Syria wing, condemning what it described as the "heinous" killing of Lt Kasaesbeh by militants.
NYT, AFP, REUTERS