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Pilot's Brutal Murder Brings Calls For ISIS Blood In Jordan

"ISIS have played their cards incorrectly.” BuzzFeed News' Sheera Frenkel reports from Jordan.

Posted on February 4, 2015, at 9:56 a.m. ET

Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Jordanians hold photos of Kasaesbeh and signs which read, "We are all Muath."

AMMAN – Marwan Abdullah uses his phone to play and replay the video of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh's grisly death to a crowd of hushed onlookers. He skips over the initial speeches and interrogation of Kaseasbeh, and forwards straight to the scenes of ISIS setting fire to the pilot, who prays as he stands trapped inside a cage, awaiting his own death.

On the second showing, one of them starts to grumble "those ISIS dogs should die," and by the fourth showing, the sounds of the licking flames in the video can barely be heard over the angry jeers of the men.

"These sorts of things don't happen in Jordan, they do not happen to Jordanians," said Abdullah. "Muath is all of us, he is our brother, our son, our friend... To watch him burn like that, every Jordanian now feels anger deep deep in his heart."

Jordan, normally an oasis of calm in a turbulent Middle East, erupted Wednesday in angry calls for vengeance against ISIS. The same tribal elders who weeks ago pushed Jordan's King Abdullah to leave the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS are now calling for Jordan's military to throw its full weight into the war against the militant group. Kaseasbeh's father, who comes from one of Jordan's most prominent tribes, appeared on national television vowing that his son would be avenged. Both the Jordanian army and the king echoed his call.

"The execution today is only a small part of our revenge," Saif al-Kasaesbeh told Al Jazeera, referring to the dawn executions of would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and al-Qaeda member Ziad al-Karboli, who had long been on Jordan's death row. ISIS last month suggested that it would trade Kaseasbeh for Rishawi — a deal Kaseasbeh's family had heavily pushed for.

Now, Saif said, Jordan's task was "to destroy this terrorist group."

Nearly two weeks ago, BuzzFeed News spoke to Heba Muhammed, a 42-year-old mother of four whose husband comes from Kaseasbeh's tribe. From her family home in Amman, she spoke about how Jordan had been "tricked" by the U.S. into joining the anti-ISIS coalition. Her oldest son, she said, was just a few years away from enlisting in the army and she feared him fighting ISIS.

"A lot of Jordanians are asking themselves why we are in this war," she said then. "What is the point?"

On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News reached Muhammed again by phone, and this time her view of the war had shifted.

"We have no choice but to fight ISIS," she said. "They are barbarians and they have proved it now to all of Jordan who they are and what they will do to our sons. We cannot allow them to be on our borders."

Jordanians felt "deceived" by ISIS giving them false hopes that Kaseasbeh might be returned in a prisoner exchange, she said. She had supported the potential deal, and felt swindled when Jordan's military spokesman announced Tuesday that ISIS had killed Kaseasbeh exactly one month ago, on Jan. 3, and therefore could not provide the proof of life Jordan had demanded during the negotiations.

"Why give us false hope? Why give his family that hope?" Muhammed asked. "They tricked us into believing they could be negotiated with."

One Jordanian diplomat, who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity, said the country was increasing its military presence along the border with Syria and Iraq and keeping a close eye on Islamist figures in Jordan with known sympathies to ISIS and other jihadi groups.

"ISIS have played their cards incorrectly," he said. "They thought they would scare Jordan into submission. They thought the public reaction would be to cower. But their brutality was too much and they scared away whatever support they had in Jordan."

Everyone in Jordan had seen the video of Kaseasbeh's death, said Abdullah, who kept the video running on his phone even as he spoke to BuzzFeed News.

"The way he was killed goes against everything we believe as Muslims," he said. "You would not burn a dog like this. ISIS went too far. This was too much."

  • Picture of Sheera Frenkel

    Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F

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