Amman (AFP) – Jordan said Thursday its warplanes had launched new strikes against the Islamic State (IS) group, after vowing a harsh response to the burning alive of one of its fighter pilots captured in Syria.
The announcement came as King Abdullah II personally paid his condolences to the airman’s family, which has urged the government to “destroy” the extremists, reflecting deep anger among Jordanians over the brutal murder.
“The Jordanian air force launched raids against positions of the Islamic State group,” said a government official, who did not want to be named.
He did not disclose where or when the strikes took place, saying the military would release a statement later.
Jordan has conducted regular raids against IS in Syria as part of a US-led campaign against the Sunni extremist group, which has seized swathes of the war-torn country and of neighbouring Iraq.
The gruesome murder of airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by IS in December when his F-16 fighter plane went down in Syria, has increased support in Jordan for stepped-up military action against the extremists.
“Jordan will wage all-out war to protect our principles and values,” the Al-Rai government newspaper wrote in an editorial. “We are on the lookout for this band of criminals.”
Abdullah cut short a visit to the United States and flew back to Amman on Wednesday after the harrowing video emerged of Kassasbeh’s killing.
“The blood of martyr Maaz al-Kassasbeh will not be in vain and the response of Jordan and its army after what happened to our dear son will be severe,” he said afterwards.
Wednesday, in response to the killing of the 26-year-old pilot, Jordan executed two Iraqis on death row – female would-be suicide bomber Sajida al-Rishawi and al-Qaeda operative Ziad al-Karboli.
Abdullah travelled to Kassasbeh’s hometown of Karak, 120 kilometres (74 miles) south of the capital, on Thursday where a traditional mourning tent was set up for the family to receive guests.
Hundreds of people, including representatives of the military and civilians, gathered as the king, wearing a red and white checked keffiyeh, sat next to the 26-year-old first lieutenant’s father, Safi.