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ISIS Video Purports To Show Killing Of Jordanian Pilot


Strong, earth shaking and decisive - that's the response Jordan vowed after a video was posted today by the self-proclaimed Islamic State that appears to show the murder of a Jordanian pilot. People in Amman took to the streets in anger after the video's release.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

CORNISH: Muath al-Kaseasbeh was captured in Syria in December. ISIS had threatened to kill him unless Jordan released a woman who attempted to participate in a series of al-Qaida bombings in Jordan 10 years ago. Jordan's King Abdullah spoke with President Obama at the White House late today. The King said he's cutting short a trip to the U.S. to head back to his country. NPR's Alice Fordham has been covering this story for weeks and joins us now, and a warning, here, that there will be some graphic descriptions in the story. Alice, can you begin by telling us what's known about this video released?

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Sure, it begins with images of Jordan's King Abdullah meeting with President Obama. The king's one of a handful of Arab leaders to join the U.S. in the fight against ISIS and the group, of course, reviles him for this. Then there's some news footage of the pilot's capture. This is all kind of typical and familiar in a grim way from the videos of beheadings of hostages the group's released so far, but the next part is even more grotesque. In a slick sequence with slow-motion parts he is led to a cage in an orange jumpsuit, apparently doused in something flammable, and he's set alight and burns to death. It's now come out that Jordanian and American officials believe he was likely killed a month ago, despite all the negotiations we've seen.

CORNISH: Now, you recently met with the pilot's family, and what more did you learn about him?

FORDHAM: Yeah, his plane crashed in Syria while he was flying sorties with the coalition about the end of December. And I met the family not long after and his brothers who look just like him and his parents. They talked about a quiet young man, more of practical guy than a talker - really reliable, really hard-working. He'd recently gotten married. His brother had actually been in the air force with him and they were just proud of him. There were pictures of him up all over the house. They're an educated, very dignified family, but they are also very traditional, tribal, religious, and they said he was religious, too. And especially his father said he didn't believe Jordan should be in this coalition fighting against fellow Muslims.

CORNISH: And, Alice, the family's doubts about Jordan's participation in the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS were widely shared in Jordan, right? I mean, what's going on there today?

FORDHAM: Yeah, no doubt this is a shock. A military spokesman vowed punishment and revenge as huge as that of the Jordanians' loss. It's a difficult, unpredictable time, I think, for the Jordanian authorities because this hostage situation, like you say, Audie, really highlighted a lot of doubts in Jordan about the coalition. But as far as the response so far to this situation, the tone seems to be more aggressive rather than less. There are reports that the female prisoner that ISIS demanded has been moved to a place where they might execute her.

CORNISH: We've mentioned that King Abdullah is planning to head back to Jordan from his trip here. What other reaction are you hearing right now from Jordan?

FORDHAM: It seems mixed and somewhat confused. A colleague working with NPR in Amman was at a kind of gathering of people in the street there.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

FORDHAM: He said they seemed sad and angry.

ADBDUL KAREN AL SHREDAH: (Foreign language spoken).

FORDHAM: This is a human rights activist, Adbdul Karen al Shredah, who said he couldn't describe his sorrow and rage. He felt like there was a volcano inside him. And an argument actually broke out among the crowd there about whether Jordan should leave the coalition or whether it should take revenge. So there's a lot of confusion there amid the grief and the fear.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Alice Fordham on the death of the captured Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh, at the hands of ISIS. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

FORDHAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.