Jordan hits ISIL targets in revenge for pilot killing

It comes a day after King Abdullah vowed revenge against the militant group following the brutal killing of Jordanian pilot Maaz Al Kassasbeh.

 Jordanians gather in Amman in a show of solidarity with the Jordanian pilot burnt alive by ISIL. Jamal Nasrallah/EPA
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AMMAN // Jordan's air force struck ISIL positions in northern Syria on Thursday, the day after King Abdullah II promised a relentless war against the group.

While the military did not specify where the attacks took place, they were believed to have hit the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa.

After carrying out the attacks, the F-16 jets flew over Amman and Karak – the governorate where Maaz Al Kassasbeh, a pilot burned to death by ISIL, is from.

King Abdullah and Queen Rania were paying their respects to the Al Kassasbeh family in Karak at the time.

Safi Al Kassasbeh, the pilot’s father, said ISIL militants are “infidels and terrorists who know no humanity or human rights”.

“The international community must destroy the Islamic State group,” he said.

Al Kassasbeh was captured by ISIL in December after ejecting from his fighter jet not far from Raqqa. Last Tuesday, the group released a video showing him being burned alive.

King Abdullah cut short a trip to Washington to lead the response against ISIL, as Jordanians called for revenge and appeared to unify against ISIL.

Mass pro-government demonstrations are expected on Friday after mid-day prayers.

“Jordan will wage all-out war to protect our principles and values,” government-owned Al Rai newspaper wrote in an editorial. “We are on the lookout for this band of criminals.”

Jordan is a key member of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition. On Wednesday, King Abdullah pledged to continue the battle against the group.

“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,” the king said.

In an attempt to avoid another pilot being captured by ISIL, the United States military moved search-and-rescue aircraft to northern Iraq, US officials said on Thursday.

Previously, the closest such aircraft were in Kuwait.

Jordan had tried to negotiate for Al Kassasbeh, and was prepared to free Sajida Al Rishawi, a militant on death, in exchange for the pilot.

Jordanian state TV later said the government believed Al Kassasbeh was killed on January 3.

Al Rishawi and another captured militant, Ziad Al Karboli, were executed on Wednesday in response to ISIL’s killing of Al Kassasbeh.

* with reporting from Agence France-Presse, Associated Press