By Khetam Malkawi
AMMAN — Jordan on Tuesday threatened an “earth-shaking response” for the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh by the so-called Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, while His Majesty King Abdullah urged Jordanians to stand united at these crucial times.
Following the release of a video showing a group of IS masked terrorists burning Kasasbeh alive, the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) issued a statement saying that the officer was killed on January 3, nine days after his F-16 crashed over Raqqa in northeast Syria (see text of the army statement in separate story).
In his statement, aired on Jordan TV, King Abdullah described IS as a cowardly terrorist group that has nothing to do with true Islam, praising Kasasbeh as a brave pilot who was fighting in defence of Islam, his country and his nation.
The Royal Court announced that King Abdullah would cut short his visit to the US, with the White House announcing an unscheduled meeting between the King and President Barack Obama in Washington later Tuesday before the King’s departure.
In its statement, the army vowed a response that is “proportionate to the magnitude of the tragedy of all Jordanians”, according to the statement read on Jordan TV by JAF Spokesperson Colonel Mamdouh Ameri.
A similar reaction was echoed by Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani, who said several measures will be taken by the Kingdom to respond to this brutal group.
In a statement aired by Jordan TV, Momani said that Jordan’s response to the assassination “will be swift. Jordanians’ wrath will devastate Daesh’s ranks”.
Addressing those who had doubt about the brutality of IS, the minister said what the group did is proof of such brutality.
“For those who used to believe that this group represents Islam, this is the proof, and for those who had doubts about the unity of Jordanians against this evil, we will show them what unity we have.”
He added that Kasasbeh does not belong to one tribe or one governorate, but to all the Jordanian people.
Jordanian citizens, political parties and key figures were in a state of shock Tuesday evening, voicing their rage as well as solidarity with the family of the fallen soldier and vowing support for JAF and security agencies as the country rises to respond to the terrorist threat.
Young people spontaneously took to the streets, including members of the pilot’s family, to condemn the execution of Kasasbeh.
Muneer Rawashdeh was one of the participants at the gathering in Dabouq, where hundreds of relatives and Jordanians flocked to offer condolences to the pilot’s family at a Karak Tribes Diwan (tribal meeting place).
“Muath is a hero. We will remember him as a hero who fought this terrorist organisation,” he said.
“We are very angry because of what happened and we should avenge his assassination,” said Rawashdeh.
Azzam Kasasbeh, another participant, said: “I offer my condolences to all Jordanians. This hero is the son of all Jordanians. We need to be united at this stage. We should have faith in our army. We should support our army to kill those terrorists.”
Munther Hammad, a university student, urged a continued war against “blood-thirsty terrorists”.
The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, meanwhile, urged Jordanians to perform “prayers for the absent”, a group funeral prayers performed for those who die on strange land and did not receive proper burial. The faithful will gather at mosques around the country to do the ritual at midday prayers, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
Church leaders also called on their congregations to toll bells and hold special masses to honour the fallen soldier, Petra said.
The international community also expressed its anger at the brutal killing of the officer, and offered sympathies to his family and the Jordanian people.
Last week, the terrorist group released a video showing Japanese hostage Kenji Goto holding a doctored picture of Kasasbeh, and threatening to kill both Kasasbeh and the Japanese hostage if Jordan did not release the convicted terrorist Sajida Rishawi.
However, the government insisted on receiving proof that Kasasbeh was alive for the swap to take place. IS on Saturday released a video showing the beheading of Goto without any comment on the fate of Kasasbeh.
According to Momani, the government asked for proof of life then because it had suspicions in this regard.
Omar Obeidat, Mohammad Ghazal, Rula Samain and Hind Joucka contributed to this story.
This piece was published in The Jordan Times.