The battle between the Islamic State group and the coalition fighting to defeat it intensified this week. The Islamic State released a video of what appeared to be a Jordanian fighter pilot. The video showed him trapped in a cage and being burned alive. The images shocked people around the world.
Jordanian officials identified the young man as Muath al-Kasaesbeh. They say he was captured in December after his F-16 airplane went down over northern Syria. At the time, his plane was taking part in United States-led coalition airstrikes against Islamic State targets.
The Islamic State had recently offered to trade him for an Iraqi. Jordanian officials captured Sajida al-Rishawi after she was involved in a terror attack 10 years ago in Amman. Sixty people died in that attack. Jordan said it would consider releasing the would-be suicide bomber if it received proof that the pilot was still alive.
Jordan’s King Abdullah was in Washington on a state visit when the video appeared on the Internet. Jordanian officials say they believe the pilot was killed a month ago. In a statement, King Abdullah called on Jordanians to stand strong. He returned home to find the streets of Amman filled with supporters. Many were calling for action against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL.
The next day, Jordan executed two jailed militants, including Sajida al-Rishawi. Within hours, the Jordanian military launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets.
Islamic State forces control parts of Syria and Iraq. Its fighters are accused of killing thousands of civilians in the two countries. Some observers believe they have executed hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi security forces.
Islamic State militants have also killed a number of foreigners. Last month, the group announced the execution of two Japanese men. The Islamic State group says it targeted the two because Japan offered $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting the Islamic State.
A United States official told VOA, ISIL is using the video of the pilot’s killing and videos of other violence to energize its followers. The official added that in the minds of the militants, the images show the group’s strength.
Yonah Alexander directs the International Center for Terrorism Studies at the Potomac Institute. He says ISIL’s use of violence and propaganda is an effort to show the group is able to influence world events, even when it cannot win militarily.
In his words, “You are talking about terrorism as a great equalizer, which means you kill one, you don’t need missiles. Their aim is to be able to be equal to a superpower like the United States.”
Mr. Alexander says he expects much more violence. So do other observers, like Professor Mia Bloom. She teaches security studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. She believes the Islamic State will take what she calls “an eye-for-an eye attitude.” But she thinks its use of extreme violence could turn local populations against the group.
Yet the killing of the pilot has clearly shaken some nations. On Wednesday, the United Arab Emirates announced it was ending its involvement in the military effort against ISIL, also known as ISIS.
Late Friday, Islamic State militants claimed that a Jordanian airstrike killed an American aid worker the group has been holding. They said she was buried under the wreckage of a building in northern Syria. The SITE Intelligence Group reported the claim.
The Obama administration said it could not confirm the report. A U.S. official said the State Department has confirmed that Americans are being held overseas, including by the Islamic State. But she said she could not provide more details about this case.
And that's In the News.
I'm Christopher Cruise.
This report was based on stories from VOA reporters Arash Arabasadi, Sharon Behn and Henry Ridgwell. George Grow wrote this story in VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter edited the story.
Words in this Story
coalition - n. forces, groups or nations joined
video - n. a method of recording images and sound without a traditional film camera to be shown on a television, computer or other device
pilot - n. one who guides or flies an airplane or helicopter
trade - v. to buy and sell or exchange products or services
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