Amman: Islamic State militants released a video on Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burnt alive, and Jordan vowed to avenge his death with an "earth-shaking" response.
A Jordanian official said the authorities would execute several militants jailed in Jordan in response, including a Iraqi woman who Amman had sought to swap for the pilot taken captive after his plane crashed in Syria in December.
The video showed a man resembling airman Muath al-Kasaesbeh standing in a black cage before being set ablaze. The reaction of the Jordanian authorities made clear they treated the video as genuine.
Jordan, which has been mounting air raids in Syria as part of the US-led alliance against Islamic State insurgents, would deliver a "strong, earth-shaking and decisive" response, a govt spokesman said.
"The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan," army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said in a televised statement confirming the death of the pilot, who was seized by Islamic State in December.
The fate of Kasaesbeh, a member of a large tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy, has gripped Jordan for weeks and provoked rare protests against King Abdullah over the government's handling of the crisis.
A man purported to be Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh is seen standing in a cage (Photo: video grab)
The king cut short a visit to the United States to return home following word of Kasaesbeh's death. In a televised statement, he said the pilot's killing was an act of "cowardly terror" by a deviant group that has no relation to Islam.
Jordan had sought to swap the pilot for Sajida al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman militant who was sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bombing in Amman that killed 60 people.
Islamic State had demanded her release in exchange for the life of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto. The beheading of Goto, a veteran war reporter, was shown in a video released by the group on Saturday.
The Jordanian military might escalate attacks on Islamic State, said retired air force General Mamoun Abu Nowar. "We might even see in a couple of days the rate of sorties increased dramatically. We might have some special operations against their leadership too," he said.
In the Islamic State video, Kasaesbeh is interviewed, describing the mission he was due to carry out before his jet crashed. The video also showed footage of the aftermath of air strikes, with people trying to remove civilians from debris.
A man resembling Kasaesbeh is shown inside the cage with his clothes dampened, apparently with flammable liquid, and one of the masked fighters holds a torch, setting alight a line of fuel, which leads into the cage.
The man is set ablaze and kneels to the ground.
(Video courtesy: Fox News)
Fighters then pour debris, including broken masonry, over the cage which a bulldozer then flattens, with the body still inside. The video showed a desert setting similar to previous videos of killings.
DEMAND FOR REVENGE
In the pilot's hometown of Karak in southern Jordan, people demanded revenge.
"I want to see Sajida body's burnt and all the other terrorists in Jordanian prisons ... Only then will my thirst for revenge be satisfied," said Abdullah al-Majali, a government employee among dozens of demonstrators in the centre of Karak.
Witnesses said anti-government protests briefly broke out in the town when Kasaesbeh's death was announced as angry relatives blamed the authorities for failing to save him.
Jordanian state television said on Tuesday that he had been killed a month ago, on January 3.
The White House said the intelligence community was studying when the video was recorded and that President Barack Obama had ordered his team to devote all resources to locate other hostages held by Islamic State.
A staunch US ally, Jordan is part of the alliance against the Islamic State group that has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq. King Abdullah has defended the campaign against domestic criticism, saying that moderate Muslims need to combat a group whose ideology and brutality have insulted Islam.
Obama praised al-Kasaesbeh for his bravery and said he was "in the vanguard of the effort to degrade and defeat the threat" posed by militants from Islamic State, also known as ISIL.
"Today, the coalition fights for everyone who has suffered from ISIL's inhumanity. It is their memory that invests us and our coalition partners with the undeterred resolve to see ISIL and its hateful ideology banished to the recesses of history," Obama said in a statement.
Anwar al-Tarawneh, the wife of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who burnt alive by Islamic State group militants, holds a poster of him as she weeps (Photo: AP)
In the video, the burned man wore orange clothes similar to those worn by other foreign Islamic State captives who have been killed since the US-led coalition started bombing the militants in July.
Islamic State has released videos showing the beheadings of five US and British hostages and said that it killed two Japanese captives in the same way. It has meted out the same treatment to many more Arab prisoners, including Syrian government soldiers.
The militants have stepped up the gruesome killings while coming under increased military pressure from the air strikes and a ground campaign by Kurdish and Iraqi troops to reverse their territorial gains in Iraq and Syria.
Islamic State emerged out of al-Qaeda in Iraq. It expanded into Syria as the country was plunged into a civil war estimated to have killed 200,000 people since 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Tuesday that 51 civilians, including children, had been killed by Syrian air force strikes inside the country within the past day.
The US-led coalition says it does not coordinate with the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, who Washington has described as part of the problem. It does work with the Iraq government, which is also fighting Islamic State....