The Isis group's release of a video showing its fighters burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot sparked street protests calling for vengeance and threatened to draw Jordan's usually low-key monarch towards ever more direct confrontation with radical Islam.
The Jordanian military, a close ally in the US-led coalition against Isis (Islamic State), vowed "punishment and revenge" for the killing, which it said was probably carried out in early January.
The Jordanian public was stunned by the brutality of the videotaped slaying, the latest killing of a hostage by Isis. The previous cases were all beheadings, but the latest video appeared to show the captive, Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh, 26, doused with flammable liquid and burned alive in a cage.
Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh and Sajida al-Rishawi. Photos / AP
Before his death, many Jordanians were calling for the country to withdraw from the offensive against Isis, arguing that it was not their fight. But the confirmation of Kasaesbeh's death seemed to cement resolve, and many demanded that terrorist convicts sought by Isis in a prisoner swap be immediately executed.
Later yesterday, a Government minister said Jordan had executed two prisoners, including an Iraqi woman who was a failed suicide bomber and was sought by Isis in a prisoner swap, AP reported. Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouli were executed at dawn local time, Information Minister Mohammed Momani said.
Rishawi had been on death row for her role in a triple hotel bombing in the Jordanian capital, Amman, in 2005 that killed 60 people. Local media reports earlier said authorities transferred two terrorist convicts - al-Qaeda-linked militants on death row who were said to be part of prisoner-swap talks between Amman and Isis and already sentenced to death - to the Swaqqa Correctional Facility in central Jordan, where executions are carried out.
In a pre-recorded address to the nation, King Abdullah II condemned what he called the "cowardly" act and urged national unity in a time of grieving. He called Isis "that criminal organisation that has no ties to our religion".
Abdullah was in Washington to discuss a new aid deal with the United States. After learning of the killing, he cut short his visit, heading to the airport after stopping at the White House to meet President Barack Obama.
Momani warned that Jordan's response to the killing would be "strong".
"The brutal killing of the captive pilot is proof of the cruelty of this terrorist and fanatic group," he said.
Jordanians focused, too, on the fact that the militants, who claim to adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam, had tortured and executed a fellow Muslim.
"This execution was un-Islamic in every sense," said Mohammed Shalbi, or Abu Sayyef, head of the hardline Jordanian Salafist movement, which maintains ties with Isis and al-Qaeda.
The pilot "was Muslim, his parents were Muslims and he was a prisoner of war", the cleric said. "This killing has proven that the Islamic State are deviants from Islam, and now all of Jordan - Islamists and liberals, East Bank and West Bank - are all united against them."
In Washington, Obama said the US and its coalition partners would redouble their determination to defeat Isis, but US officials said they did not envision any expansion or change in the current strategy.
"We're going to remain committed to this, as we have been, and there's not going to be any loss of focus," said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
Despite earlier calls in Jordan to reduce participation in the coalition, US officials indicated a hope that Kasaesbeh's slaying would increase Arab commitment and undercut Isis' appeal to disaffected Muslim youths around the world.
"That a young patriot - a devout Muslim, one of eight children, just months into married life, with hopes of his own family in front of him - would be [Isis'] latest victim reminds us all of the evil of this enemy," Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Kasaesbeh was captured in December after his plane crashed in Syria during a bombing run. Late last year, Isis posted social-media images of him surrounded by masked militants as his captors pulled him from a body of water.