Amman/Istanbul(dpa) – King Abdullah II vowed Wednesday to deliver a “harsh response” to the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot by Islamic State militants, who released a video of the execution.
The Jordanian monarch made the vow at crisis talks with security officials after his arrival home from a shortened trip to the United States, state news agency Petra reported.
Earlier, Jordanian authorities executed two convicted terrorists in response to the killing of pilot Mu’adh al-Kasasbeh, captured by Islamic State forces after his fighter jet crashed in December during a bombing mission in Syria.
One of those executed at daybreak was failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi, who was at the centre of negotiations on the fate of al-Kasasbeh.
“The response of Jordan and its Arab army to the criminal and cowardly act against our dear son [al-Kasasbeh] will be harsh,” Abdullah II said, according to Petra. “We are fighting this war to protect our faith and our human values and principles. Our war will be relentless.”
Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi national, was on death row for her part in suicide attacks in the Jordanian capital Amman that killed 60 people in 2005. She survived when her suicide belt failed to explode, while her husband killed 38 people and himself at a wedding party in the attack.
The other prisoner executed Wednesday in Jordan was Iraqi national Ziad al-Karbouli, al-Ghad newspaper reported.
Both condemned prisoners were linked to the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda, which later developed into Islamic State and split from the international terrorist network.
After landing in Amman, Abdullah II was greeted by thousands of citizens carrying his photo and that of al-Kasasbesh, Jordanian media reported.
Jordan is a member of the US-led coalition waging a campaign of airstrikes since September against Islamic State targets in Syria, where the militant group controls significant territories.
The slaying of the Jordanian pilot only strengthened the coalition’s resolve, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in Washington, a day after US President Barack Obama met with Abdullah.
Several US lawmakers called Wednesday for more US military assistance to Jordan. The White House stressed the strong relationship with Amman but said Jordan had made no request for additional aid.
Mosques across Jordan held prayers for the pilot, and churches rang bells in remembrance.
Some of the services were broadcast on state television, which has placed an image of al-Kasasbeh in the upper left corner during continuous coverage.
The government has declared the pilot a “martyr” and pledged “earthshaking” retaliation.
The 22-minute video depicting the execution of the pilot appeared filmed well in advance, and Jordanian officials have said they believe the 26-year-old airman was slain last month.
Jordan had in vain demanded proof of life from Islamic State when talks collapsed last week, fueling speculation that the pilot was dead. The pilot, who was from an influential southern Jordanian tribe, had become a national cause in the kingdom after his capture, and authorities came under pssure to win his release.
The New York Times reported that the United Arab Emirates pulled out of the coalition bombing campaign against the extremist jihadist group, after the Jordanian pilot was captured.
The US “appciated the wide range” of military and other commitments by the UAE to the international coalition, Earnest said, noting that the Emirates’ decision to end airstrikes had not slowed the pace of operations in Syria.
The pilot’s father, Safi al-Kasasbeh, denounced Islamic State as a terrorist organization that was not connected to Islam and called on Muslims to unite against the group.
“The Jordanians and the allied forces should avenge the death of my son,” he said.
Condemnations poured in from world leaders, including Saudi Arabia and European nations.
Ahmed al-Tayeb, head of al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam’s top religious authorities, called for members of the Islamic State militia to be maimed or killed, including by crucifixion. He called the group a “satanic” organization that spads corruption on earth and wages war against God.
Islamic State militants announced Saturday that they had killed Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, shortly after executing another Japanese hostage.
The burning video comes as Islamic State is under pssure in Iraq and Syria, after seizing large territories last year in both countries.
Kobane, the northern Syrian city that had become a symbol of resistance against Islamic State, was recaptured by Kurdish fighters last month with help from the US-led aerial campaigns.
“Whenever (Islamic State) feels overstretched militarily, it resorts to psychological warfare through propaganda to compensate for this weakness,” wrote Lina Khatib with the Carnegie Middle East Centre, a think-tank.