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Jordanians Seek Retribution After ISIS' Burning Of Captured Pilot


Jordanian fighter jets hit more targets of the so-called Islamic State today as that country's foreign minister vowed to completely wipe out the militants. This just a day after ISIS claimed that a Jordanian airstrike killed a female American hostage, though, no evidence of her death has emerged. In Jordan, people are still stunned by Tuesday's ISIS video that showed a captured Jordanian pilot being burned to death in a cage. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Amman. Peter, what do we know about the latest airstrikes?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, the news came out of the Jordanian state television. They're often the folks that give these official announcements, especially from the military. And this one didn't provide a lot of detail. They just said that they hit camps belonging to the terror gang. That's what they call ISIS here. And the fact that they're talking about it themselves instead of deferring to the U.S. military is a new development, and it is a sign of the kind of anger and revenge being sought here.

RATH: Before, they hadn't been trumpeting what they were doing.

KENYON: Yeah, exactly.

RATH: How are Jordanians responding to this claim by ISIS that 26-year-old Kayla Mueller was killed in an airstrike yesterday?

KENYON: Well, they say they're looking into it, but they claim to be very skeptical. They note that there was no image of a body that's been seen by anyone, just some rubble of a building. Mueller's family has released a statement saying they're very concerned and they hold ISIS responsible for their daughter's safety. But at this point they are still hoping she may be alive.

Here, what people are noticing is that if ISIS was hoping to dent Jordan's anger of the burning of that pilot with this claim of a U.S. casualty, it's not working so far. The interior minister told a state-run paper today that these daily barrages are just the beginning of a process that will continue to escalate, although he didn't specify how.

RATH: Yeah, and well, it sounds like people there - Jordanians - are angry, calling for an all-out war against ISIS. How likely is that?

KENYON: Well, that's certainly what they want. I was at a rally yesterday where every young man I ran into, and several older ones, vowed that he was ready to sign up and fight right now. Some want to avenge the slain pilot, others want to defend their religion, saying ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, and the world needs to understand that.

But actually destroying ISIS, we have to say, is not really within Jordan's capability. Even the U.S.-led coalition is estimating that could take years. For some people here, the terrible events of this week have given King Abdullah a window of popularity, and that's kind of an opportunity. This is a very divided country, though. They've been piled on with refugees for decades, the latest being from Iraq and Syria. And now the question is will the king use this popularity to try and tackle some of the economic and social problems or will he simply focus on the military solution?

RATH: Peter, there are signs that another Arab partner in the anti-ISIS coalition may be rejoining the fight. What can you tell us about?

KENYON: Yeah, actually, a couple of developments there. According to a State Department official speaking in Munich yesterday, the United Arab Emirates may be about ready to rejoin the airstrike sorties. And that's probably because Washington has positioned search and rescue crews in Northern Iraq, closer to the battlefield. When the Jordanian pilot crashed in December and was not rescued, the UAE was concerned and halted its flights. So that may resume now or on the other hand, or possibly in addition, we're getting reports now from Jordan that the Emirates is sending F-16 aircraft here. And so that will certainly intensify the air campaign. So I guess what we can say is for the moment ISIS has not been successful in driving Arab-Muslim countries from this coalition fighting it.

RATH: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon on the line from Amman, Jordan. Peter, thanks very much.

KENYON: You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.