Jordan called Wednesday for a decisive battle against the Islamic State group, declaring “this evil can and should be defeated,” after the terrorists burned a Jordanian pilot to death in a cage and gleefully broadcast the horrific images on outdoor screens in their stronghold.
Waves of revulsion over the killing washed across the Middle East, a region long accustomed to violence. In mosques, streets and coffee shops, Muslims denounced the terrorists’ brutality and distanced themselves from their violent version of Islam.
In an initial response, Jordan executed two Iraqi al-Qaida prisoners, Sajida al-Rishawi and Zaid al-Karbouly, before sunrise Wednesday.
The killing of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who crashed over Syria in December, also highlighted the vulnerability of Jordan, a key Western ally in the region, to threats from extremists.
Jordan was long considered an island of relative stability in a turbulent region, but in recent years had to absorb hundreds of thousands of war refugees, first from Iraq and then Syria, at a time of a sharp economic downturn.
Experts estimate Islamic State and other jihadi groups have thousands of supporters in the kingdom. The United States and Israel are particularly concerned about any signs of turmoil. Israel views Jordan as an important land buffer and the two countries share intelligence.
In Washington, congressional support built Wednesday for increased U.S. military assistance to the kingdom. Currently, the United States is providing Jordan with $1 billion annually in economic and military assistance.