Jordanian king vows 'relentless' war on Islamic State's own ground

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Jordanian king vows 'relentless' war on Islamic State's own ground
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American aid worker and ISIS hostage Kayla Jean Mueller reportedly killed in coalition air strike. http://t.co/RO5B4YXa2M
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Jordanian students shout slogans on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state (IS) group and in reaction to the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh by the group's militants. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. The placards show Jordan's King Abdullah II and Maaz al-Kassasbeh. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
(al-Furqan Media)
Jawdat al-Kassasbeh, the brother of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burned alive by Islamic state (IS) group's militants, flashes the sign of victory during a rally against IS group and in reaction to the pilot's murder on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordanian students shout slogans waving national flags on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state (IS) group and in reaction to the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh (on the placards) by the group's militants. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 4: Jordanians welcome King Abdullah as he arrives at Aliya Airport 30 kilometers from the capital Amman, Jordan on February 4, 2015. He has cut his visit to America short following the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Muaz el-Kesasibe by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Jordanians met King Abdullah with posters of the King and Jordanian flags on his arrival at Aliya Airport 30 kilometers from the capital Amman. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Jordanian shouts slogans on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state (IS) group and in reaction to the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh by the group's militants. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. The placards show Jordan's King Abdullah II and Maaz al-Kassasbeh. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
A Jordanian student sits in front of a giant poster showing Jordan's King Abdullah II as he holds a placard bearing a portrait of late Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh on February 5, 2015 during a rally in the capital Amman against the Islamic state (IS) group after its militants burned alive the pilot. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordanian Muslim worshippers perform a prayer on February 4, 2015 in the capital Amman, for Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burnt alive by Islamic State (IS) group militants after they captured him when his jet crashed in northern Syria in December. The burning alive of the Jordanian pilot by the IS group has shocked the kingdom, where people are expected to rally behind a military campaign against the jihadists, experts say. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the Lower House's budget committee session at the National Diet in Tokyo on February 4, 2015. Abe condemned the apparent execution by the Islamic State group of a Jordanian pilot as 'unforgivable', days after the murders of two Japanese hostages. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
(al-Furqan Media)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03: A group of people stage protest after a release of a video, allegedly shows execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who has been held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces, in Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2015. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03: A group of people stage protest after a release of a video, allegedly shows execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who has been held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces, in Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2015. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03:Angry Jordanians gather after after hearing the news of the execution of Jordanian pilot Muath Al Kasasbeh, at the Kasasbeh tribe society on February 3, 2015 in Amman, Jordan. Today a video was released depicting captured Jordanian pilot First Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasabeh being burned alive in a cage by the Islamic State (ISIS) group. (Photo by Jordan Pix/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03: A group of people stage protest after a release of a video, allegedly shows execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who has been held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces, in Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2015. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Anwar Tarawneh (C), the wife of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by Islamic State (IS) group militants on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria, sheds a tear during a rally calling for the release of her captive husband in the Jordanian capital Amman on February 3, 2015. Jordan vowed to do all it could to save the pilot held by IS after the jihadists killed a Japanese journalist they had been holding. IS has been demanding the release of an Iraqi jihadist on death row in Jordan in exchange for Kassasbeh's life, and Amman said it would hand her over if given proof that he is still alive. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded.
Screen shot from an Internet video released Friday that purports to show an ISIS militant beheading British aid worker Alan Henning, who had been taken hostage by the extremist group.
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(Reuters) - 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 hard-line 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.

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

Jordan, which is part of the U.S.-led alliance, had promised an "earth-shaking response" to the killing of its pilot, Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, who was captured after his F-16 crashed.

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 U.S. ally in the fight against hardline Islamist groups and hosted U.S. troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is home to hundreds of U.S. 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 U.S.-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 defense secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday vowed to understand and resolve reported delays in U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

DAWN EXECUTION

The prisoners were executed in Swaqa prison, 70 km (45 miles) south of Amman, just before dawn, a security source who was familiar with the case said. "They were both calm and showed no emotions and just prayed," he added without elaborating.

Rishawi, in her mid-forties, was part of an al Qaeda network that targeted three Amman hotels in suicide bombings in 2005. She was meant to die in one of the attacks - the worst in Jordan's history - but her suicide bomb belt did not go off.

Only two other prisoners are on death row in Jordan - Mohammad Hassan al Sahli, a Syrian who was convicted of plotting and executing a rocket attack in August 2005 against a U.S. navy vessel and the Israeli port city of Eilat, and Jordanian Muamar Jaghbeer, a leading al Qaeda operative.

There are at least 250 Islamist militants in prison, almost half of them were arrested in the past year and are Islamic State sympathisers.

Jordan said on Tuesday the pilot had been killed a month ago. The government had been picking up intelligence for weeks that the pilot was killed some time ago, a source close to the government said.

"The horror of the killing, the method of killing is probably going to generate more short-term support for the state," said a Western diplomat. "But once that horror dies down, inevitably some of the questions revert on Jordan's role in the coalition."

The Syrian government condemned the killing and urged Jordan to cooperate with it in a fight against Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Syria. The United States has ruled out Syria as a partner in the campaign against Islamic State, describing President Bashar al-Assad as part of the problem.

The executed woman came from Iraq's Anbar province bordering Jordan. Her tribal Iraqi relatives were close aides of the slain Jordanian leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, from whose group Islamic State emerged.

Islamic State had demanded her release in exchange for the life of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. However, Goto was beheaded by the group, video released last Saturday showed.

Jordan had insisted that they would only release the woman as part of a deal to free the pilot.

(Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi in Dubai; Editing by Peter Millership and Pravin Char)

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