Safi al-Kasaesbeh (2nd L), father of Jordanian pilot Muath, who was captured by Islamic State after his plane came down near Raqqa in Syria on Wednesday, speaks on a telephone as he sits with relatives following the news of his son, in the house of a relative in Amman..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A prisoner exchange may be in the cards for a Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State fighters after his plane crashed in Syria, according to a report in the Arab press.
Jordanian political activists told the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi on Thursday that a prisoner exchange could be possible if the Jordanian government released people affiliated with the group al-Qaida in Iraq, the precursor to Islamic State.
Tareq al-Fayed, a Jordanian political activist close to the Salafist movement mentioned Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman who was caught trying to blow herself up in a failed suicide bombing during a wedding party at a hotel in Amman in 2005.
Prominent political activist Sheikh Muhammad Khalaf al-Hadid told the Arab newspaper that in addition to Rishawi, the Jordanian pilot could be exchanged for jihadist Ziad al-Karbouli (aka Abu Houthiyfah).
Karbouli worked with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Another name that he raised was Jordanian Muammar al-Jaghbir, who was sentenced to death for the 2002 murder of a US diplomat, but whose sentence was commuted to 15 years.
Salafi leader Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi – who has come out against Islamic State, but supports al-Qaida, was named by Khalaf, adding that he is the only person in Jordan capable of negotiating such an exchange.
“In early September, Maqdisi defended the Islamic State when a Saudi cleric declared that the group had broken away from Islam,” said Ala’ Alrababa’h in a report published earlier this month by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Maqdisi asserted that despite the group’s faults, he had never criticized the Islamic State for “fighting tyrants, rafida [rejectors], or nusayri [a derogatory term for Alawites], for establishing an Islamic state or for declaring the caliphate,” wrote Alrababa’h.
Then, in late September, Maqdisi said, “the crusade against Islam and Muslims in Syria and Iraq has begun with the support of the apostates.”
Meanwhile, the father of a Jordanian pilot said he does not consider his son a hostage, and he called on his captors to treat him as a guest.
Jordan is one of several Arab countries participating in the US-led military mission to bomb fighters from the Islamist group, which holds territory in both Syria and Iraq.
1LT. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, 27, was captured after his jet crashed in northeast Syria during a bombing mission against the Islamists on Wednesday. The US military, which commands the operation, said enemy fire was not the cause of the crash.
Kasaesbeh, who comes from a prominent Jordanian Sunni family, is the first pilot from the international coalition known to have been captured by Islamic State.
The Sunni jihadist group has a history of killing enemy soldiers it captures on the battlefield and beheading Western civilians it takes hostage. Many of the captives it has killed are Shi’ites or non-Muslims, but the group has also executed Sunnis for fighting alongside its enemies.
His family has pleaded for mercy.
“I do not want to describe him as a hostage. I call him a guest,” his father, Saif al-Kasaesbeh, told Reuters Television. “He is a guest among brothers of ours in Syria Islamic State. I ask them – by the name of God and with the dignity of the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him – to receive him as a guest of his hosts and treat him well.”