Islamic State released a 22 minute video on Tuesday titled “Healing the Believers’ Chests,” showing captured Jordanian air force pilot Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh (PDF) being burnt alive in a cage.
Initially sat at a table, facing into a camera and speaking calmly, Kaseasbeh describes the mission he was due to carry out before his jet crashed last December and he was captured by the Islamic State. He appears with graphics overlaid describing the “Crusader Coalition” of “Canada, France, US, Britain, Australia, Jordan, the Emirates, Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Morocco,” and noting the name and location of the various airports used in the areal campaign against IS.
Addressing the Jordanian people, Kaseasbeh urges them to question Jordan’s claim of being a defender of Islam, and asks them why Jordan is not bombing the Jews and the Syrian regime instead. “Know that our government is an agent of the Zionists,” he says. Addressing the families of other pilots, Kaseasbeh calls upon them not to send their children on missions whose goal is targeting other Muslims. Doing so will ensure that “what happened to me doesn’t happen to your sons.”
Footage of the aftermath of coalition airstrikes is then shown, with people trying to remove civilians from debris.
Kaseasbeh is seen amid some destroyed buildings, walking in slow-motion to his death past a long line of Islamic State fighters, dressed in khaki and balaclavas and holding assault rifles.
The pilot is put in a cage, with flammable liquid splashed on his orange clothing and trailed along the ground. After the trail of fire to his cage is ignited by one of the masked fighters, he is seen standing as the flames consume him and he slowly dies, falling to his knees.
Fighters then pour debris, including broken masonry, over the cage which a bulldozer subsequently flattens with the body still inside.
Islamic State-affiliated Twitter accounts had been holding discussions among its supporters, asking for ways to “execute the captured pilot.”An Arabic Twitter trend started by IS, “Suggest a Way to Kill the Jordanian Pilot Pig” (#اقترح_طريقة_لقتل_الطيار_الاردني_الخنزير) has been widely shared among its followers. Vocativ reported that the hashtag had been shared over 1,000 times among IS supporters, who suggested several brutal ways to kill the pilot. Some of the ideas included beheading Kaseasbeh, burning him alive, and making a bulldozer run over his body.
Islamic State circulated a document citing Prophet Mohammed burning apostates alive, and posted quotes from the Quran and Imams (PDF), to justify burning Kaseasbeh alive.
Jordanian state television said on Tuesday that Kaseasbeh had been killed a month ago on Jan. 3, before Islamic State offered to spare his life and free a Japanese journalist in return for the release of attempted Iraqi female suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi held in Jordan. A source close to the Jordanian government said Amman had been picking up intelligence for weeks that the pilot was killed some time ago. Given that Jordan’s own intelligence indicated the pilot was dead, the government decided it could not possibly release the woman absent convincing proof the pilot was still alive, the source said, and such proof never arrived.
At the end of the video text appears on-screen stating, a bounty issued by Islamic State to anyone who kills “a crusader pilot”: “On this occasion, the Islamic State announces a reward of 100 gold dinars to whoever kills a crusader pilot. The diwan for state security has released a list containing the names of Jordanian pilots participating in the campaign. So good tiding to whoever supports his religion and achieves a kill that will liberate him from hellfire.”
Following the statement, detailed information of Jordanian pilots is shown, including their names, alleged addresses and geolocations, Facebook pages and other personal information.
Jordan, which has been mounting air raids in Syria as part of the U.S.-led alliance against Islamic State insurgents, would deliver a “strong, earth-shaking and decisive” response, a government spokesman said.
“The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,” army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said in a televised statement confirming the death of Kaseasbeh.
Hours after the video emerged online, a security official said executions would begin at daybreak.
Sajida al-Rishawi was named as the first slated to go to the gallows. Jordan agreed last week to release Rishawi, who was facing execution for her role in the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman, but first wanted proof their pilot was alive. Islamic State never provided that proof.
Ziad al-Karboli, an Iraqi Al-Qaeda operative and aide to a former AQI leader, who was convicted in 2008 for killing a Jordanian, was also executed at dawn. It was reported last week that Karboli may also have been part of the prisoner exchange demanded by IS.
The Jordanian military might also escalate attacks on Islamic State, said retired air force General Mamoun Abu Nowar. “We might even see in a couple of days the rate of sorties increased dramatically. We might have some special operations against their leadership too,” he said.
Jordan’s King Abdullah was in the United States when he heard news of the brutal murder, prompting him to cut short his visit, after meeting with US president Barack Obama.
“This [is] cowardly terror by a criminal group that has no relation to Islam … It’s the duty of all citizens to stand together,” the King said in a short televised appearance.
US President Obama was quick to condemn the killing and said it was clear IS was only interested in death and in destruction. “Should in fact this video be authentic, it’s just one more indication of the viciousness [and] barbarity of this organisation,” Obama said. “And 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.”
The United States announced it will increase annual aid to Jordan to $1 billion from $660 million to help it pay for the cost of housing refugees from Iraq and Syria and to fight the Islamic State.