Jordan said on Thursday its warplanes had launched new strikes against the Islamic State group, after vowing a harsh response to the burning alive of one of its fighter pilots captured in Syria.
The announcement came as King Abdullah II personally paid his condolences to the airman’s family, which has urged the government to “destroy” the jihadists, reflecting deep anger among Jordanians over the brutal murder.
“The Jordanian air force launched raids against positions of the Islamic State group,” said a government official, who did not want to be named.
He did not disclose where or when the strikes took place, saying the military would release a statement later. Jordan has conducted regular raids against IS in Syria as part of a US-led campaign against the Sunni extremist group, which has seized swathes of the war-torn country and of neighbouring Iraq.
The gruesome murder of airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by IS in December when his F-16 fighter plane went down in Syria, has increased support in Jordan for stepped-up military action against the jihadists.
“Jordan will wage all-out war to protect our principles and values,” the Al-Rai government newspaper wrote in an editorial. “We are on the lookout for this band of criminals.”
Abdullah cut short a visit to the United States and flew back to Amman yesterday after the harrowing video emerged of Kassasbeh’s killing.
“The blood of martyr Maaz al-Kassasbeh will not be in vain and the response of Jordan and its army after what happened to our dear son will be severe,” he said afterwards. Wednesday, in response to the killing of the 26-year-old pilot, Jordan executed two Iraqis on death row — female would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and Al-Qaeda operative Ziad al-Karboli.
Abdullah travelled to Kassasbeh’s hometown of Karak, 120 kilometres (74 miles) south of the capital, on Thursday where a traditional mourning tent was set up for the family to receive guests. Hundreds of people, including representatives of the military and civilians, gathered as the king, wearing a red and white checked keffiyeh, sat next to the 26-year-old first lieutenant’s father, Safi.
The airman’s killing sparked outrage in Jordan and demonstrations in Amman and Karak, also the bastion of Kassasbeh’s influential tribe.
The slain pilot’s father branded IS “infidels and terrorists who know no humanity or human rights”.
“The international community must destroy the Islamic State group,” he said. IS had offered to spare Kassasbeh’s life and free Japanese journalist Kenji Goto — who was later beheaded — in exchange for Rishawi’s release.
Rishawi, 44, was sentenced to death for her participation in triple hotel bombings in Amman in 2005 that killed 60 people.
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