Muath Al-Kasasbeh

Muath Al-Kasasbeh
Native name معاذ صافي يوسف الكساسبة
Birth name Muath Safi Yousef Al-Kasasbeh
Born (1988-05-29)29 May 1988
Karak, Jordan
Died c. 3 January 2015(2015-01-03) (aged 26)
Raqqa, Syria
Buried at Syria
Allegiance  Jordan
Service/branch Royal Jordanian Air Force
Years of service 2009–15
Rank 1st lieutenant (promoted posthumously to captain)
Unit No. 1 Squadron
Battles/wars Military intervention against ISIL
Spouse(s) Anwar Al-Tarawneh

Muath Safi Yousef Al-Kasasbeh (Arabic: معاذ صافي يوسف الكساسبة  South Levantine pronunciation: [mʊˈʕaːð-, mʊˈʕaːz ˈsˤɑːfi ˈjuːsef el kaˈsaːsbe]; 29 May 1988[1] – c. 3 January 2015)[2] was a Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot who was captured and burned to death by the militant jihadist group ISIL after his F-16 fighter aircraft crashed over Syria.

His fighter crashed near Raqqa, Syria, on 24 December 2014 during the military intervention against the Islamic State. United States and Jordanian officials said that the crash was caused by mechanical problems, while ISIL claimed that the plane was hit by a heat-seeking missile.[3][4]

ISIL held Al-Kasasbeh captive before killing him in early January 2015. It then conducted negotiations with the Jordanian government, claiming it would spare Al-Kasabeh's life and free Japanese journalist Kenji Goto in exchange for Sajida al-Rishawi, a woman sentenced to death by Jordan for attempted terrorism and possessing explosives.[5] After the Jordanian government insisted on freeing Al-Kasasbeh as part of the deal and showing proof that he was alive before it would exchange al-Rishawi, ISIS released a video on 3 February 2015 showing Al-Kasasbeh being burned to death while trapped inside a cage.

Al-Kasasbeh's killing provoked widespread outrage in Jordan, and condemnation by leading figures of the Islamic world and subsequently led the Jordanian government to sentence already captured ISIL militants to death in retaliation over the killing.

Personal life

Al-Kasasbeh was one of eight children, including an elder brother, Jawdat Safi Al-Kasasbeh, born to Issaf and Safi Yousef Al-Kasasbeh, a retired education professor, in Al Karak, Jordan.[6][7][8] He was a Sunni Muslim.[9] The Al-Kasasbehs are a prominent Jordanian family of the influential Sunni Muslim Bararsheh tribe from southern Jordan.[10] His uncle, Fahed Al-Kasasbeh, was a Major General in the Royal Jordanian Army.[11][12]

Al-Kasasbeh married engineer Anwar al-Tarawneh in September 2014.[13] Prior to his capture, Al-Kasasbeh lived in the village of Ay in the Karak Mountains in Karak Governorate, 90 miles (140 km) south of Amman.[10][14]


In 2009, Al-Kasasbeh graduated from the King Hussein Air College and joined the Royal Jordanian Air Force. He completed additional F-16 tactics training with the Republic of Korea Air Force's 120th Flying Squadron, at Seosan Air Base under a joint South Korean-Jordanian exchange programme. By 2012, he qualified as an operational F-16 pilot and was assigned to No. 1 Squadron at Muwaffaq Salti Air Base.[8]

At the time of his capture, Al-Kasasbeh was a First Lieutenant.[11] He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain.


Jordanian F-16s, similar to those operated by Al-Kasasbeh, in October 2009

The plane Al-Kasasbeh was piloting, a Lockheed Martin F-16 formerly used by the Royal Belgian Air Force, crashed after suffering from mechanical problems on 24 December 2014 during a bombing raid on a brick factory during the military intervention against the Islamic State.[4] The Jordanian government said a technical failure caused him to eject after flying at low altitude, but the Islamic State claimed it shot down his aircraft.[4][15] He ejected and parachuted into a lake near Raqqa, Syria. He was quickly captured by Islamic State militants and pulled from the water.[11][16][17][18] US officials state they initiated a search and rescue mission, but they did not locate him before he was captured.[17] On 30 December 2014, Muath appeared in a detailed interview with ISIS's Dabiq magazine.[19][20]

Unsuccessful negotiations took place for his release. His family applied pressure on the Jordanian government to arrange for his release. Originally, it was proposed to trade him and a kidnapped Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, for Sajida al-Rishawi, a failed Iraqi suicide bomber incarcerated in Jordan since she took part in the 2005 Amman hotel bombings, and sentenced to death.[21] The Jordanian government insisted on proof that al-Kasasbeh was still alive before it could proceed with a swap. The Islamic State refused and published the video of his killing.[22] Some analysts have assessed IS's offer of prisoner exchange as a gimmick that was meant to put into disrepute or mock the commitment of the Jordanian government to the military intervention against it. There have also been suggestions that the proposal was a tactic intended to free its valued member in exchange for a corpse.

A military operation to free al-Kasasbeh, possibly by Jordanian special forces, may have been made on 1 January 2015. Members of an anti-IS group in Raqqa, named Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said they witnessed coalition jets bombing targets in Raqqa in some of the fiercest strikes of the anti-IS campaign, while four helicopters dropped off soldiers wearing purported Jordanian Army uniforms. The mission was aborted when IS fighters in the area began firing anti-aircraft missiles at the helicopters, forcing a retreat.[23]


ISIS supporters used the Arabic hashtag #SuggestAWayToKillTheJordanianPilotPig on Twitter, crowdsourcing and publicizing their execution of al-Kasasbeh.[24][25][26] A film released by the group showed al-Kasasbeh was burned to death by ISIS members in January 2015.[5][27] His killing was recorded on video and shown near the end of a 22-minute "snuff film" entitled Healing the Believers' Chests, credited to the ISIS official Al Furqan Media Foundation and distributed via a Twitter account known as a source for IS propaganda, and on video-sharing sites.[21][28][29][30]

The video shows him with a black left eye, first at a table and then confined in a black steel cage outdoors and dressed in an orange jumpsuit before an ISIL militant sets alight a trail doused in gasoline leading towards the cage. He was burned alive while numerous armed ISIL fighters in sand-colored balaclavas and desert-style camouflage watched on from a distance. A truck finally extinguishes the fire by dumping rocks and sand on it.[29]

Before he was burned to death, al-Kasasbeh was made to reveal the names and workplaces of a number of his fellow Royal Jordanian Air Force pilots.[31][32] Their names and photographs were displayed at the end of the video, with an ISIS bounty offer of 100 gold dinars (approximately $20,000) for each Jordanian Air Force pilot killed.[31][32]

Most Western media outlets refused to show the full video, sometimes describing it or showing images immediately preceding al-Kasasbeh's immolation.[33] Fox News posted the complete video on its website.[34]

The Jordanian government assessed that al-Kasasbeh was killed by burning on 3 January, rather than 3 February, when the video was released on Twitter. If correct, it would confirm that the ISIS never intended to exchange him for al-Rishawi. Other news reports suggest that he may have been killed a few days later, on 8 January, according to a tweet posted by a Syrian activist from Raqqa that day claiming he saw individuals from ISIS celebrating the death of al-Kasasbeh on 8 January.[35] It was reported that al-Kasasbeh was deprived of food beginning five days before he was killed.[35]

On 25 February 2015, al-l'tisam, a media arm of ISIS, released a video entitled Message to Jordan. It showed new excerpts from the video of al-Kasasbeh's burning.[36][37]


Muath al-Kasasbeh's memorial at the University of Jordan.

Al-Kasasbeh's killing provoked outrage in Jordan; even some of those who had been opposed to the country's participation in airstrikes against IS started demanding revenge.[38]

King Abdullah II cut short a visit to the United States, and the Jordanian government announced that all prisoners in its custody who had been convicted of association with IS would be executed "within hours" in retaliation for Al-Kasasbeh's killing.[39] In further response, Mamdouh al-Ameri, a Jordanian military spokesman, said: "While the military forces mourn the martyr, they emphasize his blood will not be shed in vain. The revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan."[40]

On 4 February 2015, al-Rishawi and another Iraqi jihadist who was also on death row, Ziad Khalaf al-Karbouly, were executed by hanging in Swaqa Prison, expedited in response to Al-Kasasbeh's death.[41][42][43]

Later on 4 February, Jordan launched its first military response to al-Kasasbeh's killing. Jordanian warplanes bombed IS positions in Mosul, killing 55 IS fighters, including a senior commander.[44] The following day, Jordan launched airstrikes against IS weapons and munition warehouses and training camps. According to U.S. officials, the attacks took place near Ar-Raqqah and involved 20 Jordanian F-16s, and American refueling and radio jamming aircraft assisted. After the jets completed their mission, they overflew al-Kasasbeh's hometown of Karak while on their way back to base.[45][46] The Jordan Radio and Television Corporation aired footage shot prior to those attacks, of pilots scribbling messages onto bombs slated to be used in the strikes. "For you, the enemies of Islam," read one message. Others bore verses from the Quran.[47][48] In 3 days of bombardment, Jordanian fighter jets destroyed 56 ISIS targets and killed dozens of ISIS fighters.[49]

Several clerics, leading figures of the Islamic world and news outlets roundly condemned the killing as murder. However, IS said it could be justified by Islamic law. Despite cremation being illegal per Islamic law.[50][51]

The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front, condemned the killing of al-Kasasbeh. Their statement described it as a "crime", without mentioning ISIS. The IAF's leader, Sheikh Hammam Saïd, in a 5 February interview with Radio Sawa, asked Jordan to withdraw from the anti-ISIS coalition, saying "Jordan should not be part of a coalition run by the United States."[52]

Sheikh Salam Salameh, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), said “IS members are, in one way or another, considered Muslims and we must not stand with the enemies of Allah against the people of Allah (the IS).” He added, “Jordan is the reason for al-Kasasbeh having been burned. It was the Jordanian government's decision to send its army into Syria to assist the [Syrian] government against the rebels in their war, in which it [Jordan] has no interest. It should have adopted a similar position to Turkey.”[53][52][54]


  1. Heather Saul and Kashmira Gander (24 December 2014). "Isis 'did not shoot down Jordan war plane' before capturing pilot, says US". The Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2015. RMC later posted a photograph of the Jordanian military identity card of the pilot identifying him as Mu'ath Safi Yousef Al-Kaseasbeh who was born on May 29, 1988.
  2. Shiv Malik (4 February 2015). "Isis video shows Jordanian hostage being burned to death". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  3. "Profile: IS-held Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh". BBC News.
  4. 1 2 3 "Jordan pilot ejected over Syria after 'technical failure'". Yahoo News. Yahoo. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  5. 1 2 "Jordan committed to anti-IS coalition, despite hostage drama". Yahoo News. 1 February 2015.
  6. "Egypt reviles ISIS killing of Jordanian pilot Al-Kasasbeh – Daily News Egypt". Daily News Egypt.
  7. Rod Nordland and Ranya Kadri (3 February 2015). "Jordan Executes Prisoners After ISIS Video of Pilot's Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2014.
  8. 1 2 "Profile of a patriotic pilot: Moaz al-Kasasbeh". Al Arabiya News. 4 February 2015.
  9. "Profile: IS-held Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh". BBC News. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015. Lt Kasasbeh's family urged IS to spare him, stressing that he was a devout Sunni Muslim.
  10. 1 2 "IS Hostage Pilot's Brother: 'It's Not Our War'". Sky News.
  11. 1 2 3 "Tribal Loyalties Drive Jordans Effort to Free Pilot". The New York Times. 1 February 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  12. "Jordan warns Islamic State militants against harming captured pilot". 26 December 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  13. Mitchell Prothero (3 February 2015). "Jordan prepares to execute ISIS prisoners as retaliation for savage killing". McClatchy Foreign via The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 February 2015. Anwar al-Tarawneh, the wife of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Moaz Al-Kasasbeh, who was burned to death by Islamic State group militants, holds a poster of him as she weeps during a protest in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015.
  14. Greg Botelho and Jomana Karadsheh (5 February 2015). "Jordan unleashes wrath on ISIS: 'This is just the beginning'". CNN.
  15. "Profile: IS-held Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh". BBC News.
  16. Laura Smith-Spark and Michael Martinez (29 January 2015). "Who was Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh, killed by ISIS?". CNN.
  17. 1 2 "US moves pilot-rescue teams closer as Coalition steps up war against IS".
  18. "ISIS terrorists capture Jordan pilot, plane not shot down". NY Daily News.
  20. Cassandra Vinograd. "When Did Jordan Find Out Hostage Pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh Was Dead?". NBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  21. 1 2 "Jordan pilot hostage Moaz al-Kasasbeh 'burned alive'". BBC News.
  22. "Jordan confirms death of pilot, says killed January 3". The Jordan Times. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  23. "Special Forces May Have Tried To Rescue Jordanian Pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh". International Business Times. 4 February 2015.
  24. "Was Jordanian pilot burned alive after sick Twitter campaign among ISIS supporters to name his method of death?". dailymail.
  25. "Isis militants 'using Twitter to ask for suggestions on how to kill Jordanian pilot'". independent.
  26. "ISIS Video Shows Captured Jordanian Pilot Being Burned Alive". haaretz.
  27. "Pilot held by Islamic State puts Jordan's king in a tough spot". Reuters.
  28. Adam Chandler (4 February 2015). "Jordan's King Abdullah Vows Revenge for Death of Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, Who Was Burned Alive by ISIS". The Atlantic.
  29. 1 2 "Video claims to show ISIS terrorists burning pilot alive".
  30. "Video: IS verbrandt gevangengenomen Jordaanse piloot levend". The Post Online. 3 February 2015. (in Dutch; includes a excerpt of the immolation via LiveLeak as an inline illustration)
  31. 1 2 "Video claims to show ISIS terrorists burning pilot alive -". AOL Article.
  32. 1 2 Martin Chulov. "Jordan executes would-be suicide bomber wanted for release by Islamic State". the Guardian.
  33. Erik Wemple (3 February 2015). "Islamic State burning video: News organizations describe it, don't show it". Washington Post.
  34. Nicky Woolf (4 February 2015). "Fox News website embeds unedited Isis video showing brutal murder of Jordanian pilot". The Guardian.
  35. 1 2 "الطيار الأردني حُرم من الطعام قبل إعدامه بخمسة أيام". صحيفة عاجل الإلكترونية.
  36. "al-I'tiṣām Media presents a new video message from The Islamic State: "Message to Jordan" - JIHADOLOGY: A clearinghouse for jihādī primary source material, original analysis, and translation service". JIHADOLOGY: A clearinghouse for jihādī primary source material, original analysis, and translation service. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  37. "بالفيديو : تنظيم الدولة يوجه " رسالة الى الاردن " ويبث لقطات جديدة لعملية احراق الطيار الاردني " معاذ الكساسبة " - وكالة خطوة الإخبارية". وكالة خطوة الإخبارية. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  38. Martin Chulov. "Jordanians turn their minds to revenge after Isis killing of pilot". the Guardian.
  39. John Hall and Tom Wyke and Steph Cockroft for MailOnline and David Williams, Chief Reporter for the Daily Mail (3 February 2015). "Jordan announces execution of six ISIS prisoners 'within hours' in retaliation after terrorists release lavish video of Jordanian pilot being TORCHED to death in a cage in yet another new low for humanity". Daily Mail.
  40. "Report: ISIS Executes Jordanian Pilot". 3 February 2015.
  41. Michaels, Jim; Bacon, John. "Jordan executes two in response to pilot's slaying". USA Today. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  42. "Jordan executes Sajida al-Rishawi after pilot murder". Al Arabiya News English. 4 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  43. "Jordan executes two terrorists after alkasasabeh murder". MehrNews.
  44. "Jordan carries out air strikes in Iraq, killing 55 IS militants". i24news.
  45. "Jordanian fighter jets strike hard at ISIS, pay tribute to murdered pilot". Fox News.
  46. "Jordanian warplanes bomb Isis targets". The New Zealand Herald.
  47. "بالفيديو.."سيصلى نارا ذات لهب"..آيات قرآنية على صواريخ أردنية لدك داعش |اليوم السابع" (in Arabic). Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  48. "Jordanian pilots scribble messages for Isis on missiles: 'For you, the enemies of Islam'". International Business Times UK.
  49. "Jordan: Approximately 7,000 IS members killed in strikes". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  50. Gayle, Damien (4 February 2015). "Even Al-Qaeda condemn murder of Jordanian pilot as 'deviant'... and leading Muslim cleric calls for ISIS militants to be killed, crucified and have limbs 'chopped'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  51. Scholar Khola Hasan on Murder of Jordanian Pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh by ISIS. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2016 via YouTube.
  52. 1 2 Yoni Ben Menachem. "Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan Refuses to Condemn Islamic State for Killing Jordanian Pilot". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). Jerusalem.
  53. "Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood Won't Condemn ISIS' Murder of Pilot". Newsmax. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  54. "Hamas justifies IS' brutal murder of Jordanian pilot - Palestinian Daily News". Retrieved 20 January 2016.
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