Jordanian government spokesman Muhammad al-Momani denied reports that King Abdullah II personally participated in bombing raids against ISIS, in a statement issued on Thursday.
According to Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad, which ran Momani’s statement, “everything that news sites and social media circulated in this regard is untrue.” The Daily Caller News Foundation was among the foreign outlets which reported the rumor on Wednesday, though acknowledging at the time that it may be false. (RELATED: Jordan’s King May Participate Personally In ISIS Raids)
Another outlet, Egypt’s pan-Arab paper Al-Shorouk, suggested that the misunderstanding came from the fact that Abdullah is the commander-in-chief of the Jordanian Air Force. On Wednesday, his remarks vowing revenge against ISIS said that the group’s murder of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh attacked “not just us, but also Islam.”
Facing intense domestic political pressure to act against the terrorist group, the king may not have wanted to immediately dismiss rumors that he would use his pilot training to participate in the retaliatory attacks. The Royal Hashemite Court posted a photograph of the king in a pilot’s uniform to its official Facebook page when announcing on Tuesday that he was returning early from his scheduled visit to Washington.
In recent years, Jordan’s Western-backed monarchy has faced political discontent from Islamists, as well as from a sizable Palestinian minority which faces some structural discrimination among those of Bedouin ancestry, commonly called “Jordanian Jordanians.” Abdullah has managed to consolidate initial sympathies for the “martyr” Kasasbeh and his well-connected tribe into support for Thursday’s airstrikes on ISIS.
When proof came on Tuesday that Kasasbeh was no longer safe in ISIS custody, Jordan followed through on its threat to execute ISIS-affiliated prisoners. It hanged two death row convicts Wednesday morning, a man and woman linked to al-Qaida in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor.
A terse initial statement from the Jordanian Air Force on Thursday said that planes had returned from a retaliatory mission, and that they passed over Kasasbeh’s hometown of Karak, presumably in a gesture of condolence, before landing in Amman. The deceased pilot’s father, Safi al-Kasasbeh, reported a phone call from the king, saying that the planes attacked Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria, though the military has not confirmed the attack’s target.
Jordan, a U.S. ally in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS, has absorbed refugees from both Iraq and Syria in recent years. It had temporarily suspended its participation in the attacks after Kasasbeh’s plane crashed in Syria in December.
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