Jordan weighs options against ISIL after pilot murder
AMMAN - Agence France-Presse
Jordanian Muslim worshippers perform a prayer on February 4, 2015 in the capital Amman, for Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burnt alive by ISIL militants after they captured him when his jet crashed in northern Syria in December. AFP PhotoJordan weighed its next move Feb. 5 against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after vowing a harsh response to the burning alive of a fighter pilot, whose family called for the jihadists to be "destroyed".
Jordan is one of several Arab states to have joined US-led air strikes against ISIL, which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq and imposed its brutal version of Islamic law.
The gruesome murder of airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by ISIL when his F-16 fighter plane went down in Syria in December, has boosted public support in Jordan for stepped up military action against the jihadists.
"Jordan will wage all-out war to protect our principles and values," the Al-Rai government newspaper wrote in an editorial. "We are on the lookout for this band of criminals."
King Abdullah II cut short a visit to the United States and flew back to Amman on Wednesday after the harrowing video emerged of Kassasbeh's killing.
"The blood of martyr Maaz al-Kassasbeh will not be in vain and the response of Jordan and its army after what happened to our dear son will be severe," he said afterwards.
Before dawn on Wednesday, Jordan executed two Iraqis on death row -- female would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and Al-Qaeda operative Ziad al-Karboli -- in response to the killing of the 26-year-old pilot.
So far Amman has not said what its promised harsh response will entail.
Kassasbeh's murder has even prompted speculation the kingdom may prepare ground troops to confront ISIL.
Jordan's last such military engagement in the region was in 1973, when it sent soldiers to Syria as part of an Arab coalition against Israel in the Yom Kippur war.
The airman's killing sparked outrage in Jordan and demonstrations in Amman and the city of Karak, the home of Kassasbeh's influential tribe.
The slain pilot's father Safi al-Kassasbeh branded ISIL "infidels and terrorists who know no humanity or human rights".
"The international community must destroy the Islamic State group," he said.
ISıL had offered to spare Kassasbeh's life and free Japanese journalist Kenji Goto -- who was later beheaded -- in exchange for Rishawi's release.
Rishawi, 44, was sentenced to death for her participation in triple hotel bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people.
She was closely linked to IS's predecessor organisation in Iraq and seen as an important symbol for the jihadists.
Following the airman's capture, another member of the US-led coalition, the United Arab Emirates, withdrew from air strike missions due to fears for the safety of its pilots, a US official said.
"I can confirm that UAE suspended air strikes shortly after the Jordanian pilot's plane went down," the official told AFP.
"But let me be clear that UAE continues to be an important and valuable partner that is contributing to the coalition," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
US President Barack Obama, who had hosted Abdullah in a hastily organised meeting before his return to Jordan, decried the "cowardice and depravity" of ISIL.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the brutality of ISIL was "beyond comprehension".
"It has nothing to do with our religion."
Kassasbeh was captured on December 24 when his jet crashed over northern Syria on a mission that was part of the coalition air campaign against the jihadists.
Jordanian state television suggested he was killed on January 3, before ISIL offered to spare his life and free Goto in return for Rishawi's release.
ISIL had previously beheaded two US journalists, an American aid worker and two British aid workers in similar videos. It has also killed a second Japanese hostage.