Jordanian pilot was likely murdered long before ISIS released video, experts say

(Image credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)

Jordan demanded proof that Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh was alive before handing over a convicted suicide bomber to Islamic State, and for good reason: He had probably been dead for days or even weeks. Jordan's state-run TV says that he may have been burned alive as early as Jan. 3, and terrorism experts tell The Associated Press that the elaborately staged 22-minute video obviously took time to put together, using multiple cameras and sophisticated editing techniques.

The prisoner-exchange demand appears to be nothing more than a callous way to promote the video, says Brigitte Nacos, a political scientist at Columbia University. "The more gruesome the executions are, the more attention they get." The attention isn't necessarily to ISIS's benefit, though. On Friday, for example, prominent jihadi preacher Abu Mohammed al-Maqdesi said burning the pilot was "not acceptable by any religion and by anyone." Public opinion in Jordan, once mixed, is now solidly against ISIS.

ISIS may be "making this up as they go along," Clark University political scientist Ora Szekeley tells The New York Times. Groups like ISIS "are much less coherent and cohesive than they want us to think they are." That has led to tactical mistakes, probably including the murder of al-Kasaesbeh," adds Bryn Mawr psychology professor Clark McCauley. ”These people are in many ways their own worst enemies. You just have to give them time and space and their extremity will alienate their own base."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.