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Jordan Executes Two Militants and Vows 'Earth-Shaking' Response to Islamic State

On Tuesday, the Islamic State released a gruesome video purporting to show a Jordanian pilot being burnt alive. At dawn today, Jordan hung two jihadists and promised more action is to come.

by John Beck
Feb 4 2015, 1:00pm

Image via AP/Raad Adayleh

Jordan hanged two jihadists at dawn on Wednesday morning in response to the Islamic State group apparently killing one of its fighter pilots by burning him alive.

Failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and Iraqi al Qaeda militant Ziad al-Karboli had been on death row for several years and were executed at Swaqa prison south of Ammam, the government announced.

Jordanian authorities had vowed an "earth-shaking and decisive" response to a gruesome video released by Islamic State militants showing the murder of 26-year-old airman Moaz al Kasasbeh. Kasasbeh was captured when his F-16 went down in December near the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqaa, while taking part in US-led airstrikes on Islamic State targets in the area.

Jordan had said it would begin executing extremists facing death penalties if he was killed. It ended an eight-year moratorium on capital punishment in December.

Rishawi, 44, was sentenced to death for her role in bomb attacks in Ammam that killed 60 in 2005. She had close links with the Islamic State's Iraqi predecessor, and the group had apparently said it would release both Kasasbeh and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto if she was freed. It later released a separate purportedly showing Goto's beheading in a separate video.

'Jordanians are demanding that the state and coalition take revenge with even more painful blows to destroy these criminals.'

Jordan's King Abdullah cut short a diplomatic visit to the US when the harrowing footage of Kasasbeh's killing appeared. Before returning home he held a White House meeting with US President Barack Obama and in a subsequent televised speech urged Jordanians to unite against the Islamic State.

Kasasbeh's father, Safi, told Reuters that the government should go further to avenge his murder. "I want the state to get revenge for my son's blood through more executions of those people who follow this criminal group that shares nothing with Islam," he said. "Jordanians are demanding that the state and coalition take revenge with even more painful blows to destroy these criminals."

Jordan is one of several Arab countries to have joined a broad US-led anti-Islamic State coalition that is carrying out airstrikes against the extremist group in both Iraq and Syria.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) suspended its role in December after Kasasbeh's capture, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. 

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Despite the Islamic State's offer to spare the pilot in exchange for Rishawi, he could have already been dead at the time, and Jordanian state TV claimed he might have been killed on January 3.

The international community united against the killing. British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned what he described as a "sickening murder" by "barbaric terrorists," adding that this "brutal behavior will only strengthen our resolve."

The UAE's foreign minister described the militant group as part of an "epidemic" that "must be eradicated by civilized societies without delay," while Saudi Arabia, which is also a coalition member, said it and other extremist organizations sought to distort "the values of Islam".

The Islamic State controls large parts of Iraq and Syria as part of a self-declared "caliphate" and has committed widespread atrocities. It previously appeared to murder two American journalists, two British aid workers, and a US aid worker in similar execution videos.

Islamic State video claims to show Jordanian pilot being burned alive. Read more here.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck