12032022

Jordan hangs 2 Al Qaeda prisoners after ISIS video shows Jordanian pilot burned alive

Jordan executed two Al Qaeda prisoners early Wednesday in response to a graphic video released by the ISIS terror group that showed a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage. 

Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani confirmed to the Associated Press that Jordan had executed Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouly, two Iraqis linked to Al Qaeda. Another official told the AP that both prisoners had been hanged. The executions took place at Swaqa prison about 50 miles south of the Jordanian capital of Amman. At sunrise, two ambulances carrying the bodies of al-Rishawi and al-Karbouly drove away from the prison with security escorts.

Jordan had previously expressed willingness to trade al Rishawi for the pilot, Lt. Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, but froze the swap after failing to receive any proof that he was still alive. Jordanian TV reported that al-Kaseasbeh was killed as early as Jan. 3, though that could not be immediately confirmed. 

Al-Rishawi had been sentenced to death after her 2005 role in a triple hotel bombing that killed 60 people in Amman orchestrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of the Islamic State group. Al-Karbouly, a former aide to top Al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was sent to death row in 2008 for plotting terror attacks on Jordanians in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006. 

In the video, viewed by Fox News, al-Kaseasbeh, showing signs of having been beaten and clad in an orange jumpsuit, speaks under clear duress. A narrator speaking in Arabic blasts Arab nations, including Jordan, for taking part in U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS. The final five minutes of the video show the caged pilot, his clothing apparently doused in gasoline as the fuel is lit. His screams are audible as he collapses to his knees. After being killed, the burned man and the cage are buried by a bulldozer. The video ends with ISIS offering “100 golden Dinars” for any Muslims in Jordan who kill other Jordanian pilots, whose names, pictures and hometowns are shown.

Sources told Fox News it demonstrated the highest production values of any tape to date, suggesting it took considerable time to shoot and produce.

In Washington, President Obama spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in a hastily arranged meeting at the White House. Jordan is a member of the U.S.-led coalition that has been striking ISIS in Syria since this past September. 

“It’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization,” Obama said. “And I think it will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of the global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated.”

In a statement before his meeting with Abdullah, Obama vowed the pilot’s death would “redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of our global coalition to make sure they are degraded and ultimately defeated.”

“Lieutenant al-Kaseasbeh’s dedication, courage and service to his country and family represent universal human values that stand in opposition to the cowardice and depravity of ISIL, which has been so broadly rejected around the globe,” Obama said, using another acronym for the terror group. 

Release of the video followed days of intense protests by Jordanians outside King Abdullah’s palace over the government’s refusal to agree on a prisoner swap with the terror group. Many Jordanians as well as the pilot’s family are faulting Amman – not ISIS – for allowing their country to be drawn into a “war” they claim is one between the terrorists and the U.S. and its allies. Demonstrators outside the gates of the royal palace have cried out, “Abdullah, why are we fighting?” while other Jordanian protesters have taken to social media, creating an Arabic hashtag on Twitter that reads #NotOurWar.

Jordan faces increasing threats from the militants. Jordan borders areas of Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, while there are have been signs of greater support for the group’s militant ideas among Jordan’s young and poor.

After word spread that the pilot had been killed, dozens of people chanting slogans against the Islamic State group marched toward the royal palace to express their anger. Waving a Jordanian flag, they chanted, “Damn you, Daesh!”  — using the Arabic acronym of the group — and “We will avenge, we will avenge our son’s blood.”

Jordanian Army spokesman, Mamdouh al-Ameri, said the country would strike back hard. “Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians,” he said.

Protesters marched in the pilot’s home village of Ai and set a local government office on fire. Witnesses said the atmosphere was tense and that riot police patrolled the streets.

The pilot’s father, Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh, was attending a tribal meeting in Amman when news of the video surfaced, and he was seen being led from the session. Other men were seen outside, overcome with emotion.

The Islamic State group has released a series of gruesome videos showing the beheading of captives, including two American journalists, an American aid worker and two British aid workers. Tuesday’s was the first to show a captive being burned alive.

David L. Phillips, a former State Department adviser on the Middle East, said he believes the pilot’s killing could backfire, antagonizing Sunnis against the extremists, including Sunni tribes in Iraq.

“They need to have a welcome from Sunni Arabs in Anbar Province (in Iraq) to maintain their operations,” said Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Human Rights at Columbia University.

He said the extremist group’s recent military setbacks may have fueled the killings. “They need to compensate for that with increasingly gruesome killings of prisoners,” he said.

The latest video was released three days after another video showed the purported beheading of a Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, who was captured by the Islamic State group in October.

The militants had linked the fates of the pilot and the journalist. A second Japanese hostage was apparently killed earlier last month.

The U.N. Security Council in a statement condemned the “brutality of ISIL, which is responsible for thousands of crimes and abuses against people from all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, and without regard to any basic value of humanity.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Nadiah Sarsour and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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