Islamic State uses social media to support call for pilot's execution

Capture of Jordanian triggers a war on social media between supporters of the pilot and of Islamic State

Supporters of Islamic State militants appealed via social media this week for the execution of a Jordanian pilot whom the group captured after his plane crashed in Syria on Christmas Eve.

Those using the Twitter hashtag "Suggest a way to kill the Jordanian pilot pig" have proposed slowly chopping the pilot into 90 pieces and distributing him to residents of Raqqah, the Syrian city where his warplane crashed. They also suggested crushing him with a bulldozer or force-feeding him jet fuel then handing him a cigarette.

"I suggest they slaughter him with a fruit knife so that he can savor [his death]," said one militant supporter using the Twitter handle @prince1ghost. Another suggested that the pilot, 26-year-old Moaz Kasasbeh, should be used as a guinea pig "for the cubs of Raqqah to learn how to slaughter the infidels and the apostates."

Islamic State considers its enemies, including fellow Muslims who do not adhere to its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, apostates to be punished by amputation, beheading and crucifixion.

The macabre discussion sprang up two days after Kasasbeh's F-16 crashed while conducting airstrikes against Islamic State targets in northeastern Syria. Kasasbeh, a pilot for six years in the Jordanian air force, was captured after ejecting and landing in the Euphrates River.

Islamic State quickly published photos on social media depicting the visibly frightened pilot, bloody and stripped from the waist down, fished out of the water by triumphant uniformed militants.

In an interview published Monday in Islamic State's English language Dabiq magazine, so named after the site of an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and Christians, Kasasbeh said his "plane was struck by a heat-seeking missile." Jordanian and U.S. officials have rejected the assertion.

The interview also features the first images of Kasasbeh donning the orange American detainee-style jumpsuit provided to other Islamic State hostages -- often before they were beheaded.

Jordan has been a committed participant in the U.S.-led airstrikes initiated in September against Islamic State forces in Syria. But Kasasbeh's capture has spurred a flurry of speculation about whether the Jordanian government would negotiate a prisoner exchange for his release. It has also led some to question Jordan's participation in airstrikes, which continued this week.

The real debate, however, has played out on social media as Jordanians demonstrated their support for the captured pilot with the hashtag "We are all Moaz." Queen Rania joined about 200,000 people who Tweeted an image of a F-16 fighter this week fashioned out of the hashtag.

Islamic State supporters struck back online, hijacking the "We are all Moaz" campaign, flooding the site with tweets condemning the pilot and mocking calls to set him free before launching their latest campaign, "We all want to slaughter Moaz."

One especially popular video purports to show a Syrian woman who has lost two of her children in the civil war ravaging Syria. Dressed in black with her face covered, she mocks the idea of killing Kasasbeh with a knife or a "merciful bullet.”

"No," she screams. "Riddle him with holes and send him to his mother!"

Bulos is a special correspondent.

 

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
44°