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Jordan’s King Abdullah II Returns Home to Cheers After Swift Executions
Crowds welcomed home King Abdullah II of Jordan after the swift executions of two prisoners, a day after militants released a video that appeared to show a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive. By Reuters on February 4, 2015. Photo by Majed Jaber/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »
AMMAN, Jordan — King Abdullah II returned here to an unexpectedly warm welcome on Wednesday, as cheering crowds expressed support for the country’s swift executions of two terrorist prisoners in retaliation for the Islamic State’s grisly killing of a Jordanian pilot.
The latest atrocity by the Islamic State was met with revulsion and outrage across the Arab world, with a leading Sunni imam calling for the extremists to suffer the same kind of harsh punishments they had meted out.
The Jordanian state news agency Petra confirmed that two Iraqis already on death row here, a would-be suicide bomber, Sajida al-Rishawi, and a former top lieutenant of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Ziad al-Karbouli, were executed Wednesday at dawn, less than 12 hours after the Islamic State released a video that showed the Jordanian pilot, First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, being burned alive inside a cage.
Jordan has 100 more prisoners on death row, but only three are known to have been convicted of terrorism offenses.
A spokesman for the Jordanian military, Col. Mamdouh al-Ameri, had earlier vowed that “the revenge will be equal to what happened to Jordan.”
Ms. Rishawi was sent to participate in the suicide bombings in 2005 of three Amman hotels that killed at least 57 people, but her vest did not explode; Mr. Karbouli was considered one of the planners of that attack. Their organization later became the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The king cut short his previously unannounced trip to Washington after a quick meeting with President Obama, who expressed strong support for Jordan, one of six Arab nations that are part of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, mostly through air raids.
Ms. Rishawi, in 2006, and Mr. Karbouli, in 2007, had been sentenced to death by Jordanian courts and had exhausted all appeals, but were not executed because of a long-term moratorium on the death penalty in Jordan. That moratorium was lifted in December.
The king's signature is required for death warrants, and the executions, which are normally carried out by hanging in Jordan, came while the king’s plane was still in the air from Washington.
King Abdullah landed in Jordan about midday, and he was greeted by thousands of people lining the road to the airport and nearby service roads, in an unusual outpouring of public support. Some were bused in from schools and universities, but many came on their own.
The mood was celebratory, with car horns blaring, flags waving, and displays of pictures of the king and the pilot, with slogans like, “We Are All Moaz.”
Jordanian TV/Associated Press
▪ A 46-year-old Iraqi woman, Ms. Rishawi admitted on Jordanian television to taking part in a 2005 bomb attack in Amman that killed more than 57 people.
▪ In the attacks, her husband blew himself up, but her own suicide vest failed to detonate.
▪ She was later apprehended and sentenced to death by hanging.
▪ Ms. Rishawi said she volunteered to avenge her first husband and three brothers who were killed in confrontations with American troops in Iraq.
▪ Her family comes from Anbar Province, where the Islamic State currently holds sway. Read more»
“We wanted to show the family that he is a martyr, and that is something to celebrate,” said one well-wisher, Walid Aladine, 22, a university student. Like many of the others, he was euphoric that the two convicted terrorists had been executed, and wanted to express his approval to the king.
“It gave us back some of our rights,” said his friend Hashim Abu Yahyeh, 27, also a student.
Both men said that before the hostage crisis, the beheading of two Japanese men and the killing of Lieutenant Kasasbeh, many Jordanians had been prepared to support the Islamic State militants. “After what we’ve seen, no one will support them,” Mr. Aladine said.
As outrage spread across the Arab world, the leader of Egypt’s premier institute of Islamic scholarship called Tuesday night for the extremists responsible for the death of Lieutenant Kasasbeh to be killed, maimed or even crucified.
Denouncing the Islamic State as a “diabolical” terrorist group, the institute's leader, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar Mosque, cited Quranic verses to show that Islam forbids killing without justification, as well as the burning or mutilation of enemies at war.
“This vile terrorist act,” he said in a statement issued by Al Azhar, “requires punishment as cited by the Quran for oppressors and spoilers on earth who fight God and his prophet, that they be killed, or crucified, or their hands and legs cut off.”
Al Azhar, the cornerstone of Egypt’s state-sponsored religious establishment, considers itself a beacon of moderation and tolerance for the Sunni Muslim world, and the statement offered no explanation for its advocacy of the same medieval punishments typically employed by extremists.
Human Rights Watch’s representative in Amman, Adam Coogle, said it was important to note that Jordan had not killed the two prisoners in an extrajudicial or illegal manner, based on Jordanian and international law, but he still expressed regret that the executions had been carried out.
“Jordan’s interests would still be better served by holding back and making a clear distinction between themselves and these criminals running around Syria,” he said. “Today it’s hard to make that argument. People are calling for vengeance.”
Abundant information trickled out to suggest that Lieutenant Kasasbeh had been killed on Jan. 3, both from Jordanian government officials and from at least two Twitter accounts monitoring the extremists that were reporting his death, by burning, in early January.
Islamic State militants said last week that the Jordanian pilot was alive, adding that it would spare his life and release a Japanese hostage, Kenji Goto, in exchange for Ms. Rishawi’s freedom.
Jordan demanded proof of life for its pilot, which never came, and the extremists beheaded Mr. Goto on Saturday. On Tuesday, the Islamic State released the video of the pilot’s death.
The Japanese government continued on Wednesday to express support for Jordan’s handling of the crisis and its condemnation of ISIS. “I am infuriated,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. “I am rendered speechless to think of how his family must be feeling. Japan stands with Jordan during these difficult times.”
Rod Nordland reported from Amman, and David D. Kirkpatrick from Cairo. Reporting was contributed by Ranya Kadri from Amman, Merna Thomas from Cairo, and Martin Fackler from Tokyo.
Militants’ Killing of Jordanian Pilot Unites the Arab World in Anger FEB. 4, 2015
Jordanian Pilot’s Death, Shown in ISIS Video, Spurs Jordan to Execute PrisonersFEB. 3, 2015
Tribal Loyalties Drive Jordan’s Effort to Free Pilot JAN. 31, 2015
All-but-Forgotten Prisoner in Jordan Is at Center of Swap Demand by ISIS JAN. 28, 2015
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