Jordan vows to avenge pilot's death, as IS 'execution' video emerges

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Media captionFrank Gardner reports on Moaz al-Kasasbeh's death

Jordan has vowed to avenge the killing of its air force pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh by Islamic State (IS) militants.

This comes after an IS video appeared to show him being burned alive. Jordan confirmed the death, although the video's authenticity is being checked.

Officials told reporters a convicted jihadist Jordan had tried to exchange for the pilot would be executed.

The 26-year-old pilot was seized when his plane came down in Syria in December during a mission against IS.

Mamdouh al-Ameri, a spokesman for the Jordanian armed forces, said on Tuesday that Lt Kasasbeh had "fallen as a martyr".

"His blood will not be shed in vain. Our punishment and revenge will be as huge as the loss of the Jordanians."

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Media captionJordan's King Abdullah: "It is every Jordanian's duty to stand together"

The army also promised an "earth-shattering" response to his death.

Jordanian state TV reported that Lt Kasasbeh was killed a month ago. Since then Jordan had tried to secure his release as part of a prisoner swap, offering to free failed suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi in exchange.

Rishawi, an Iraqi national, is on death row for her role in attacks in the capital, Amman, that killed 60 people in 2005.

Jordanian officials are quoted as saying she would now be executed along with with three other convicted militants.

IS had sought her release as part of a deal to free captive Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. A video that appeared to show Goto's dead body appeared four days ago.

In Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he had felt "an intense sense of anger" when hearing that the Jordanian pilot had been "horrifically burned to death".

Mr Abe expressed his solidarity with the Jordanian people and vowed not to "bow to terrorism".

At the scene: Paul Adams, BBC News, Amman

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Image caption Relatives had gathered around Lt Kasasbeh's father (centre) in Amman

Jordanians greeted the news with horror. Many have seen the gruesome video, barely edited, played over and over on television.

Hundreds gathered in the streets after dark, demanding revenge against Lt Kasasbeh's killers. Some also wanted to know why Jordan was involved in this fight at all.

The pilot's father was among supporters when the news came through. He and other family members have left the capital to mourn at home.

King Abdullah said Lt Kasasbeh had died defending his beliefs and homeland. The defence ministry said the pilot's blood would not have been shed in vain. It is promising a fitting punishment.

For many Jordanians, this has to begin with the quick execution of Sajida al-Rishawi, the failed al-Qaeda suicide bomber, jailed 10 years ago for her part in a spate of bombings against hotels here.

The video purportedly showing the pilot was posted online on Tuesday. It was distributed via a Twitter account known as a source for IS propaganda.

The highly produced 22-minute film shows what militants say is the pilot standing in a cage engulfed in flames.

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says it is aimed at a world already shocked by the calculated cruelty of Islamic State's actions.

Jordan's King Abdullah hailed Lt Kasasbeh as a hero, saying Jordan must "stand united" in the face of hardship.

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Image caption Late on Tuesday, supporters of the pilot expressed their anger at a rally in Amman
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jordanians had held sit-ins to call for Lt Kasasbeh's release

The king decided to cut short a visit to the US after news of the pilot's death, but he met President Barack Obama on Tuesday evening before flying home.

Mr Obama earlier said that if the video was real, it would be "one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity" of IS.

"I think it will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of the global coalition to make sure they are degraded and ultimately defeated," Mr Obama said.

Timeline: Jordanian pilot held hostage

24 December 2014: Jordanian Lt Moaz Youssef al-Kasasbeh captured by IS after his plane crashes

25 December 2014: Pilot's father urges IS to show mercy

20 January 2015: IS threatens to kill two Japanese hostages unless Japan pays $200m ransom within 72 hours

24 January: IS releases video of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto holding a picture apparently showing Haruna Yukawa's decapitated body

24 January: IS calls for release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi militant sentenced to death in Jordan

28 January: Jordan offers to release Rishawi in exchange for Lt Kasasbeh

29 January: Deadline to kill Lt Kasasbeh and Mr Goto expires

31 January: Video released appearing to show Kenji Goto's body

3 February: Video released appearing to show Lt Kasasbeh burnt alive, with Jordanian media suggesting he was killed weeks earlier