Jordan vows 'relentless' war on Islamic State

Jordan's King Abdullah vowed a 'relentless' war against Islamic State on their own territory.

FILE: A screengrab from CNN's report on the inner workings of the militant group, ISIS. Picture: CNN

AMMAN - Jordan's King Abdullah vowed a "relentless" war against Islamic State on their own territory on Wednesday in response to a video published by the hardline group showing a captured Jordanian air force pilot being burned alive in a cage.

Jordan hanged two Iraqi jihadists, one a woman, on Wednesday and vowed to intensify military action against Islamic State.

"We are waging this war to protect our faith, our values and human principles and our war for their sake will be relentless and will hit them in their own ground," state television quoted the king as saying during a security meeting.

US officials said on Wednesday that the United Arab Emirates had withdrawn from flying air strikes in the US-led coalition campaign against Islamic State after the Jordanian pilot's plane went down over Syria in December.

Jordan, which is part of the US-led alliance, had promised an "earth-shaking response" to the killing of its pilot, Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured after his F16 crashed.

Image: @forbeesta via Twitter.

Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said on Wednesday, "We are talking about a collaborative effort between coalition members to intensify efforts to stop extremism and terrorism to undermine, degrade and eventually finish Daesh."

Daesh is used as a derogatory Arabic term for Islamic State.

He said it was a continuation of Jordan's long standing policy in fighting hard-line Islamist militants and that King Abdullah, who cut short a trip to the United States, headed a meeting with senior security officials on Wednesday.

"All the state's military and security agencies are developing their options. Jordan's response will be heard by the world at large but this response on the security and military level will be announced at the appropriate time," Momani said.

Islamic State had demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi in exchange for a Japanese hostage whom it later beheaded. Sentenced to death for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack in Amman, Rishawi was executed at dawn.

Jordan also executed a senior al Qaeda prisoner, Ziyad Karboli, an Iraqi man who was sentenced to death in 2008.

The Jordanian pilot was the first from the coalition known to have been captured and killed by Islamic State.

Jordan is a major US ally in the fight against hardline Islamist groups and hosted US troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It is home to hundreds of US military trainers bolstering defences at the Syrian and Iraqi borders, and is determined to keep the jihadists in Syria away from its frontier.

CALLS FOR REVENGE

The fate of Kasaesbeh, a member of a large tribe that forms the backbone of support for the country's Hashemite monarchy, has gripped Jordan for weeks.

Some Jordanians had criticised the king for embroiling them in the US-led war that they said would provoke a militant backlash but the pilot's killing produced a wave of outrage and calls for revenge.

Jordan's authorities have not commented on how many missions the air force has carried out against Islamic State.

In a televised statement to the nation, the king urged national unity and said the killing was a cowardly act of terror by a criminal group that has no relation to Islam.

Muslim clerics across the Middle East, even those sympathetic to the jihadist cause, also expressed outrage, saying such a form of killing was considered despicable by Islam.

President Barack Obama's nominee for defence secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday vowed to understand and resolve reported delays in US arms sales to Jordan.

Obama has sought to attract a broad coalition, drawing on as many regional countries as possible, to avoid the appearance that the campaign is just an endeavour involving Western powers.

The US officials who said the UAE had withdrawn from the air campaign spoke on condition of anonymity. "I can confirm that UAE suspended air strikes shortly after the Jordanian pilot's plane went down, but let me be clear that UAE continues to be an important and valuable partner that is contributing to the coalition," one official said.

There was widespread shock and anger across Jordan at the brutality of the pilot's killing, which drew international condemnation.

The European Union combined a statement of solidarity with Jordan over the killing of the pilots with criticism of its immediate execution of two Iraqi jihadists.

Kasaesbeh's father said the two executions were not enough and urged the government to do more to avenge his death.

"I want the state to get revenge for my son's blood through more executions of those people who follow this criminal group that shares nothing with Islam," Safi al-Kasaesbeh told Reuters.

Islamic State has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria, Jordan's neighbours to the north and east.

In the pilot's home village of Ay, mourners said Jordanians must rally around the state. "Today we put our differences behind us and rally behind the king and nation," said Jabar Sarayrah, a shopkeeper.