Middle East

Murdered Jordanian pilot's father wants answers over son's death

Safi Yousef al Kasasbeh holds a photograph of his son, Moaz

The father of the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death in a cage earlier this year by the so-called Islamic State group has called for an investigation into the circumstances of the crash that led to his son's capture.

Mr Safi Yousef al-Kasasbeh told the BBC there were still too many unanswered questions surrounding the capture by IS of his 26-year-old son, Lt Moaz al-Kasasbeh, whose F16 jet apparently malfunctioned in skies above territory held by the group.

Lt al-Kasasbeh parachuted from his crippled plane and was captured shortly afterwards by IS around 27 December last year. It is believed he was burned to death, some seven to 10 days later, in early January 2015.

His father said: "I'm still requesting from the military to hear the last two minutes of what Moaz was saying before his plane crashed. We still don't know how it happened."

Mr al-Kasasbeh said he had been told that his son's plane had suffered either a catastrophic technical failure or had been hit by a ground-to-air missile.

"I need to know exactly what happened," he told me as we talked at the family home overlooking the Dead Sea, outside the Jordanian city of Karak.

"I also want to know what happened after he landed in the water in his ejector seat. He was in the water for an hour and 10 minutes and then IS captured him. They [the US-led coalition] should have rescued him or at least circled above him with helicopters to protect him but they just left him."

Image caption Lt Moaz al Kasasbeh was murdered by the Islamic State group in January 2015

The Islamic State group filmed its murder of Moaz al-Kasasbeh for propaganda purposes. Footage showing the pilot being burned to death formed part of its film called Healing the Believers' Chests. IS apparently showed the film on a giant screen to crowds in the de facto capital of its so-called "caliphate".

It is believed that IS engaged in talks with the Jordanian government through intermediaries. Apparently there was a possibility of a swap in which the IS hostages, Lt al-Kasasbeh and the Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto would be exchanged with Sajida Atrous al-Rishawi, who was convicted for her part in the hotel bombings in Amman on 9 November 2005.

The attacks, in which 60 people died, were orchestrated by al Qaeda in Iraq, an earlier incarnation of Islamic State. Al-Rishawi was captured after failing to detonate her suicide belt. Her husband Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari successfully detonated his device, killing 38 people at a wedding party in the SAS Radisson Hotel.

Al-Rishawi was hanged by the Jordanian government on 4 February 2015, a day after IS released film showing the murder of Lt al-Kasasbeh. The group is believed to have beheaded Mr Goto some days earlier, on 30 January.

Mr Safi Yousef al-Kasasbehh said his large family was still struggling to come to terms with the murder of his son. He said, "Moaz was my favourite son, I love them all. But he was the most precious. He was the most handsome one and the cleverest.

"He was the fourth one and he was the closest one to the family from amongst his other brothers. He was very smart and knew the Koran by heart.

"What happened to him was shocking, like a thunderbolt. When we heard he was arrested - that shocked us all. I still cannot believe it. They announced on 3 February that he was dead but he had been killed a month earlier. We're still in shock.

Image caption Lt al Kasabeh was captured after his F-16 jet apparently malfunctioned

"My relatives and all the tribe will never forget Moaz. He was unique. When he graduated to become a pilot he was always the top. The air force entrusted him with a lot of responsibility even though he was young. The grieving for Moaz will last forever."

Mr al-Kasasbeh disclosed how he had wanted his son to become a doctor, "I always wanted Moaz to study medicine in Moscow and I even secured a place for him there. But he never wanted that; he wanted to become a pilot and that's what he told his mother and his uncles.

"It was his dream from high school to become a fighter pilot." Lt al-Kasasbeh was posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain.

On 9 November 2015, Islamic State said it had carried out a mass shooting at the Jordanian International Police Training Centre in Amman. At least five people died after being shot by a Jordanian policeman, named as Captain Anwar Abu Ubayd.

Ubayd, who was killed during a shoot-out, was not known to have any terrorist links. IS claimed the attack was carried out to mark the 10th anniversary of the Amman hotel bombings.

Listen to Andrew Hosken's report on The World Tonight

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