The gruesome death of 26-year-old Lt. Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, captured while participating in airstrikes by a US-led coalition targeting the militants, sparked outrage across the Middle East and anti-Islamic State protests in Jordan.
King Abdullah II, a staunch Western ally, rushed back to Jordan, cutting short a Washington trip to try to persuade his people to support an even tougher line against the militants. Rallying such backing is pivotal for Jordan’s continued role in the coalition.
Public opinion in Jordan has been ambiguous — growing demands for revenge against the militants have been mixed with misgivings about Jordan’s role in a bombing campaign widely seen as serving Western interests.
The extremists, meanwhile, appeared to be goading Jordan. In Raqaa, Syria, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, the militants gleefully played al-Kaseasbeh’s slaying on outdoor projectors, with some chanting “God is great,” according to militant video posted online.
In the 20-minute video, the pilot displayed signs of having been beaten, including a black eye. Toward the end of the clip, he is shown wearing an orange jumpsuit. He stands in an outdoor cage as a masked militant ignites a line of fuel leading to it.
The video of his purported killing was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group’s al-Furqan media service. The clip featured the slick production and graphics used in previous Islamic State group videos.
A wave of condemnation washed across the Middle East yesterday, signaling that the Islamic State group militants might have overplayed their hand by putting their brutality toward a fellow Muslim on display.
Some said this could trigger a backlash among Sunni Muslims in the region, the main reservoir of potential supporters.
At the same time, Jordan faces increasing internal and external threats from the militants. Jordan borders areas of Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate. There also have been signs of greater support for the group’s militant ideas among Jordan’s young and poor.
Following the pilot’s death, Jordan launched what it said would be a tough campaign against the Islamic State group. In a first response, Jordan executed Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouly, two Iraqis linked to al-Qaeda