WASHINGTON – Beaten, caged, and burned alive, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, a Jordanian pilot engaged in a global mission against Islamic State, is the latest victim of the brutal terrorist network.
A video released online on Tuesday showed his murder from several angles. He is seen, apparently soaked in an accelerant. A line of fire approaches a barred pen, encircles the prisoner, and consumes him.
Jordan’s armed forces confirmed Kasaesbeh’s death to his family, vowing to avenge him with “strong, earth-shaking and decisive” action.
“The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,” army spokesman Col. Mamdouh al-Ameri said in a televised statement.
Jordanian authorities said they would execute Sajida al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman whose release Islamic State had demanded in return for the pilot’s freedom, at dawn on Wednesday.
“The decision has been taken to implement the death sentence against the Iraqi convict and others,” one Jordanian official said.
Rishawi, who attempted to detonate a suicide vest in the Amman Radisson Hotel ballroom during a wedding in 2005, was already on death row in Jordan before Islamic State demanded her release. When her explosives belt failed to detonate, her husband pushed her out of the room, and detonated a bomb that killed 38 people.
In Washington, Jordan’s King Abdullah II prepared to cut a planned week-long trip short.
In a taped message from the US capital, Abdullah called Islamic State a “cowardly gang” with “no connection to our noble religion,” Islam.
“It is the duty of all the sons and daughters of Jordan to stand together and show the true mettle of the Jordanian people,” he said.
Before the king’s departure, he met with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Vice President Joe Biden, who “reinforced America’s ironclad support for Jordan” in their meeting, according to the White House.
US intelligence agencies were reviewing the video, the White House said.
“We stand in solidarity with the government of Jordan and the Jordanian people,” the US National Security Council said in a statement condemning the “brutal murder.”
This is the eighth such video released by Islamic State of a hostage’s murder, though the first portraying death by fire.
Jordanians flooded the streets of Amman, demanding swift execution of their government’s vow to avenge the murdered pilot.
US President Barack Obama offered his condolences to Kasaesbeh’s family, and to Jordan’s armed forces and people.
“Lt. Kasasbeh will forever personify the bravery of a true son of Jordan, one who honored his family and country by his seven years of military service,” the US president said. “Along with his compatriots and other Arab and international members of the coalition, Lt. Kasasbeh was in the vanguard of the effort to degrade and defeat the threat posed by ISIL.
“The coalition fights for everyone who has suffered from ISIL’s inhumanity,” Obama continued. “It is their memory that invests us and our coalition partners with the undeterred resolve to see ISIL and its hateful ideology banished to the recesses of history.”
At the Pentagon, press secretary R.-Adm. John Kirby said the killing highlighted “just how despicable these people are, the contempt they have for life and how little they care.
“These aren’t the acts of a winner, Kirby told reporters, warning of a “backfire” within the Middle East. “And they’re not winning.”
Kasaesbeh’s plane crashed over Syria
in December, and Jordan has tried to negotiate his release ever since. Officials in Amman sought proof that Kasaesbeh was still alive before meeting an Islamic State demand to release one of its own.
Monthlong negotiations over the possible prisoner swap seem to have been in vein, as Jordan’s government now says Kasaesbeh was murdered on January 3, according to local media, referring to him as a national martyr.
Jordan is one of some 60 countries involved in the coalition against Islamic State. But its position is particularly vulnerable: The kingdom must defend itself on two fronts – its borders with Iraq and Syria – both occupied by the terrorist organization.
With the capture and torture of Kasaesbeh, Islamic State was seen as taunting the people of Jordan, whose territory it seeks eventually to control.
International broadcast networks and newspapers refused to publish images of Kasaesbeh’s murder as too brutal to show. But typical of the group’s propaganda methods, online dissemination spread images of it across social media.
Washington has pledged $1 billion a year to aid Jordan in its efforts, which extend beyond its military cooperation. The Hashemite kingdom has hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria’s civil war since the conflict began in 2011.