Video and still images apparently show a Jordanian military pilot being burned alive while confined in a cage, according to online posts from ISIS supporters Tuesday. But a Jordanian official said the pilot was actually killed a month ago.
The 22-minute video, produced by ISIS’ official al Furqan media company, begins with a condemnation of Jordan’s King Abdullah, suggesting he is to blame for what happened to the pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
The king is derided as an “ally (of) the crusaders” for working with the U.S.-led military coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Al-Kaseasbeh then appears, looking bruised with marks around his eyes and trembling as he discusses his last bombing mission, which ended with his F-16 crashing near Raqaa, Syria, the de facto ISIS capital.
Later, the same man is shown outside in a cage. An ISIS militant appears with a torch, saying he would set the caged Jordanian pilot on fire.
The ISIS member lights a long fuse that leads to al-Kaseasbeh. The Jordanian screams before fire engulfs him and he eventually collapses. A bulldozer then comes to bury him, his hands sticking out from the debris.
CNN is not showing images of the pilot’s killing.
A short time after the video became public, Jordanian military spokesman Mamdouh Al Amri said al-Kaseasbeh was “assassinated” on January 3.
The statement indicates the back-and-forth in recent weeks between Jordan and ISIS about a possible prisoner exchange to free the pilot took place after his death.
Crashed during coalition military mission
Militants say they captured al-Kaseasbeh after he ejected from his crashing F-16 on December 24, having taken part in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
Almost immediately, he became a major pawn for ISIS. The Islamist extremist group had taken hostages before. But it hadn’t gotten its hands on anyone from the U.S.-led military coalition who was actively fighting to defeat it.
His capture also got the attention of many in Jordan, including King Abdullah, who is a former helicopter pilot.
Jordanian officials even openly talked about possibly swapping Sajida al-Rishawi, a female jihadist imprisoned in Jordan for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing, for al-Kaseasbeh. That demand was made via Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who also was taken captive by ISIS.
Goto, like other hostages before him, was killed, according to a video posted Saturday, before any exchange could occur. And now apparently al-Kaseasbeh is dead also.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that if “in fact this (latest al-Kaseasbeh) video (is) authentic, it’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization.”
“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,” he said. “It also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt.”
Father: Lieutenant ‘a very modest and religious person’
According to the Jordan Times, an English-language newspaper published daily in the kingdom, al-Kaseasbeh, 27, held the rank of lieutenant in Jordan’s military.
One of eight children, he comes from Karak governorate in Jordan and graduated from King Hussein Air College, the newspaper says.
At the time of his capture, his father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh, told the Jordan Times that his son was “a very modest and religious person” who memorized the Quran and “was never harmful to anyone.”
Safi al-Kaseasbeh later demanded that Jordan do everything it can to free his son.
“I firmly ask whomever has sent Muath to fight outside the borders of Jordan, on a mission unrelated to us, to make strong efforts to bring back Muath,” he said.
“Muath’s blood is precious, it’s precious and it represents the blood of all Jordanians.”