Jordan is responding swiftly to ISIS’s claim that it has killed Moaz al-Kasasbe, a Jordanian pilot the group had been holding hostage.
Sky News Arabia and AFP are reporting that the kingdom plans to execute prisoners including Sajida Rishawi, a would-be suicide bomber arrested in 2005 in connection with Al Qaeda in Iraq’s attack on hotels in Amman that year which killed 60 people.
While the news has not been confirmed, Randa Habib, a former Amman-based AFP journalist deeply sourced inside the Jordanian government, tweeted that Rishawi and Ziad Karbouli, a former top aide to Jordanian-born Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, “may be executed today.” Habib added that her sources indicated that a number of jihadist suspects had been transferred between prisons, possibly in preparation for their execution.
Whether the prisoners are executed or not, Jordanian defence officials are promising retribution. According to Habib, an army spokesperson promised that Jordan’s response will “be at the level of disaster.” Conflict News reported that an army spokesperson said that the country’s “revenge will be of the size of the anger of the Jordanian people,” which is apparently considerable: Habib is reporting a general mood of “anger, disgust” and “calls for revenge.”
It’s natural that the Jordanian monarchy would want to channel outrage over Kasasbe’s death into more assertive anti-ISIS policies. According to the Soufan Group, nearly 2,100 Jordanians have traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State. Jordan shares borders with both countries and hosts over 747,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria.
The country has remained remarkably stable in spite of having deep national fissures of its own, with a royal family identified with the country’s Bedouin minority ruling over a majority-Palestinian population.
But Jordan’s options may be limited. The country had grounded its pilots after Kasasbe’s capture and was thought to mostly play an intelligence-gathering role when it joined Operation Inherent Resolve.
With public opinion inside the kingdom split over cooperation in the anti-ISIS coalition and the kingdom beset with internal concerns, executing terrorism-related prisoners may be the monarchy’s most expedient way of sating popular anger and getting back at the group while also papering over its lack of other options for the time being.
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