The Inspiring Story of the Jordanian Martyr Who Was Burnt Alive By IS

Published: 07th February 2015 08:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th February 2015 08:53 AM   |  A+A-


Moaz Al-Kasaesbeth, the Jordanian air force pilot burned alive in a steel cage by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadists, gave his life to protect Karak.

Also Read: ISIL Holds Public Screening of the Video Burning Jordan Pilot

But many in his desert home town, 90 miles south of the capital Amman, have already chosen to side with his killers.

As Safi Kasaesbeh, Moaz's father, called furiously for vengeance at a vigil for his dead son in the family home, just a few miles across town Jawad Majali told how his brother - also once a pilot in the Jordanian air force - had slipped away to join the extremists, and how he wanted to do the same.

"He knew that Isil are in the right. He knew that they are protecting us," said Mr Majali, 19, speaking of his brother Ahmad, who died last year after becoming a jihadist in Syria. "Isil's enemies are afraid because they see that they are implementing the correct system."

The tale of the two pilots, and the different paths they chose, shows the precarious political and security position that Jordan is now in.

Also Read: IS Justifies Burning of Jordanian Pilot 

The kingdom is increasingly having to balance its participation in the international coalition's fight against Isil with trying to contain a growing number of Sunni extremists within its own borders.

At first sight, Jordan appears to be a stable nation that has suffered relatively little fallout from the tumult in the Middle Eastern countries surrounding it, particularly the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Jordanian citizens reacted to the brutal murder of Lt Kasaesbeh with a national outpouring of grief, rage and patriotism. In the capital Amman, residents marched yesterday to honour the pilot and re-affirm their support for King Abdullah II and his promise to revenge Lt Kasaesbeh's death with a furious military onslaught against the extremists.

Also Read: Purported IS video shows Jordan Pilot Burned to Death

Marching from the al-Husseini mosque in the capital, they carried posters of the monarch, shouting "Long live the King!" and "the Jordanian people are one". Queen Rania joined the demonstation.

But a look at the country's vital statistics reveals a different story. Support for Isil, the very group the King is trying desperately to destroy in Syria, is quietly growing in his own backyard.

A recent poll found that as many as 10 per cent of Jordan's population - 500,000 Jordanians over the age of 15 years old - did not consider Isil a terrorist organisation.

The government has tried hard in recent months to crack down on jihadist supporters.

Expressing backing for Isil on social media is enough to see a Jordanian taken to the state security court.

But the problem of Isil supporters in Jordan is more deeply rooted than a few radicals that the government could round up. Rather than ideology, the main driver of support for Isil is poverty.

With industry and publicly funded projects focused mostly on the capital Amman, provincial cities have been left as increasingly stagnant backwaters, and an unemployment rate of 30 per cent among Jordanians in their early twenties is creating a disaffected generation.

Cities such as Karak, Zarqa - the birthplace of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founding father of Isil - Irbid and Ma'an are all now "fertile breeding grounds for extremism and recruitment by violent groups such as al-Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra, or Isil", a Western diplomat told The Daily Telegraph.

Mr Majali, and a friend in the neighbourhood who spoke on condition of anonymity, were a case in point.

Throughout the interviews, the former drew on a cigarette and the latter was drunk - both activities that would have the men flogged or worse under Isil's strict laws.

Ahmed Majali had always been a "rascal", his brother said. "My parents forced him to join the military believing he would calm down and become disciplined," he added. "But instead he ran away and joined Isil." According to Mr Majali, "three-quarters" of the men in his neighbourhood supported the extremists. "They use their religious ballads for their ringtones," he said.

Mr Majali said he favoured Isil controlling Jordan because his friends in the group had promised that not many people would be killed in the process, since "Jordan is mostly Sunni" and therefore not a target for sectarianism. But, for now, he said, this was not the group's primary aim and he would remain a quiet supporter, watching and waiting.

"If it wasn't for the fact that my mother is devastated by my brother's death and I have to stay and look after her, I would be in Syria tomorrow," Mr Majali said.

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