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Jordan May Execute Would-Be Bomber After ISIS Kills Pilot


We're going to turn now to Jordan, where news has spread of the murder of Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh. Video released by Islamic State militants show a man believed to be the captured pilot being burned alive. Jordanian state television is reporting that the pilot was killed a month ago on January 3, weeks after his plane crashed over Syria in a bombing mission against ISIS. Joining me now is Daoud Kuttab, director of Radio al Balad in Amman. Welcome to the program.

DAOUD KUTTAB: Thank you very much.

CORNISH: We're seeing some video footage of street protests in Jordan. Can you tell us more about what reaction you're seeing?

KUTTAB: Yeah, there is protests in both the capital Amman and also in the town where Muath al-Kaseasbeh comes from, which is in the Karak district. There are riots and demonstrations and protests that are all against the ISIS militants who have reportedly killed the Jordanian pilot.

CORNISH: Now, the Jordanian government has vowed, quote, "punishment and revenge." What specific steps might the government take?

KUTTAB: Well, there are a number of Islamist members of the ISIS who are in prison. There is, you know, the now-known would-be bomber from the 2005 bombings that they wanted to trade her for the Japanese hostage, Sajida al-Rishawi. There is rumor that she might be executed tomorrow morning. And there's also possibility that they would increase the bombings in the campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

CORNISH: Before this news, there were many Jordanians who said that for political and religious reasons they objected to Jordan's involvement in these coalition airstrikes. Could this change that?

KUTTAB: I think so. I think that many Jordanians are very upset with what happened and the way it was carried out. You hold prisoners of war and you exchange them. You don't burn them alive. And so I think this is going to turn the tide against ISIS, even from among those who might have been sympathetic or lightly supportive of them. And I think this is a real problem for them because there's going to be a strong increase in support for the government's position against them.

CORNISH: So you think this might quiet the calls from people who say, look, this is the exact reason why we shouldn't be involved.

KUTTAB: Absolutely. I think there will be a strong, powerful incentive for people to say that, you know, this is the right thing to do. And there might be a lot of calls for increasing the attacks on ISIS.

CORNISH: What are people saying about the government's handling of this hostage situation from the beginning?

KUTTAB: Well, there are some who might question it. But I think right now, everybody's going to be wrapping themselves around the flag and united in their condemnation of what happened and being a united country and feeling that this is the time to be united, not to be divided. So I don't think you will hear any criticism or any kind of second-guessing of the way the government handled. In fact, many are praising the government for asking for signs of life because there is strong belief that the Jordanians - they are saying that he might have been killed a long time ago and not recently.

CORNISH: Daoud, one question people may be asking is why we're just hearing now about this murder that may have taken place a month ago. People have been talking about this pilot for many weeks.

KUTTAB: There was a rescue attempt back then and it was reported in international media. The Jordanian media did not report it. And I think the Jordanians were hoping that, you know, that nothing happened at that time. Now, for whatever reason, they are feeling strongly that he might have been killed either as part of that event or shortly thereafter as a kind of revenge for the attempt to rescue him. That is the government line, and I think, you know, everybody's kind of repeating that same line.

CORNISH: Daoud Kuttab, he's director of Radio al Balad in Amman. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

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