Jordan Executes Two Prisoners In Response to Pilot’s Murder by ISIS

Supporters of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh hold posters of him that read, "We are all Muath," during a protest in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday. (Raad Adayleh/AP)
Supporters of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh hold posters of him that read, “We are all Muath,” during a protest in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday. (Raad Adayleh/AP)

A government spokesman says Jordan executed two prisoners, including a female would-be al Qaeda suicide bomber hours after vowing a harsh response to the gruesome killing of a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group.

The executions at dawn Wednesday came just hours after Islamic State militants released a video that purportedly showed the captured Jordanian fighter pilot being burned alive in a cage.

Jordan vowed a swift and lethal response. Hours later, government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said that two prisoners, Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad cwere executed early Wednesday.

Al-Rishawi has been on death row for her role in a triple hotel bombing in the Jordanian capital Amman in 2005 that killed dozens.

The gruesome video came after a week-long drama over a possible prisoner exchange by Jordan to win the release of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh. Jordanian TV reported the killing took place Jan. 3, raising questions about the negotiations for the pilot’s freedom.

Jordan agreed last week to release al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman facing execution for her role in the 2005 hotel bombings in Jordan, but first wanted proof the pilot was alive.

“The Jordanian response to the assassination of the hero pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, will be strong, decisive and swift,” government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said before the latest two executions were announced.

Army spokesman Mamdouh al-Ameri added, “Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians.”

“While the military forces mourn the martyr, they emphasize his blood will not be shed in vain,” he said in a statement read on Jordanian TV.

Reports by Reuters and Agence France-Presse, citing unnamed sources, said Jordan planned to execute al-Rishawai, the Iraqi prisoner, by dawn Wednesday in Jordan. The government didn’t immediately confirm the reports.

The video marks the first time a high-profile hostage of the Islamic State has been killed by fire, according to IntelCenter, which monitors extremist websites. In the past, hostages have been beheaded or shot.

“It shows how the group is continually evolving its methods to gain the maximum exposure for its actions,” IntelCenter said in a statement.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, in Washington on a previously scheduled trip, called for his nation to unite. “It’s the duty of all of us to stand united and show the real values of Jordanians in the face of these hardships,” he said on Jordanian TV from Washington.

The king went to the White House on Tuesday evening and met with President Obama. He then was cutting short his U.S. visit, the official Petra news agency said.

Obama earlier said the video, if authentic, was more evidence of the group’s “viciousness and barbarity” and called the group’s ideology “bankrupt.”

“And it, I think, will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated,” Obama told reporters.

Al-Kaseasbeh was captured by the Islamic State — also known as ISIL or ISIS — in December after his aircraft crashed over Syria. He is the first, and so far only, foreign military pilot to be captured since a U.S.-led coalition began airstrikes on the militants last year.

In Jordan, a tense situation was developing as protests erupted in Amman and the pilot’s home village of Ai on Tuesday night. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets, chanting against Abdullah. “There is no god but God and the martyr is beloved by God,” protesters were heard chanting.

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Jim Michaels and John Bacon

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