AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan executed two al-Qaida prisoners before dawn Wednesday, a government spokesman said, just hours after Islamic State militants released a video purportedly showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.
Jordan confirmed the pilot’s death and vowed a swift and lethal response.
Government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani identified the two prisoners executed by hanging early Wednesday as Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouly.
Over the past week, Jordan had offered to trade al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber, for the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, but froze any swap after saying it had received no proof that the pilot was still alive.
Al-Rishawi had been sentenced to death after her 2005 role in a triple hotel bombing in Amman that killed 60 people. Al-Karbouly was sent to death row in 2008 for plotting terror attacks on Jordanians in Iraq.
The killing of the pilot outraged Jordanians and drew worldwide condemnation, including from President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council.
Al-Kaseasbeh had fallen into the hands of the militants in December when his F-16 crashed near Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled caliphate. He is the only coalition pilot to be captured to date.
The killing of the 26-year-old pilot appeared aimed at pressuring the government of Jordan — a close U.S. ally — to leave the coalition that has carried out months of airstrikes targeting Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq. But the extremists’ brutality against a fellow Muslim could backfire and galvanize other Sunni Muslims in the region against them.
King Abdullah II has portrayed the campaign against the extremists as a battle over values.