ISIS appears to be escalating their executions to new cruel levels but experts say the terrorist group could have a motive behind burning a Jordanian pilot alive.
It’s not like they needed to prove how brutal and depraved they are. The beheadings of at least twenty hostages were convincing enough. However, this distinct change in execution tactic, the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Muath Al-Kasasbeh, seems to take ISIS to a new level.
“Yes this is an escalation. And it’s different,” said Douglas Ollivant of New America Foundation.
Analysts who closely study ISIS say it’s impossible to understand the minds of its leaders. However, they offer some possible reasons for the horrific nature of this killing. There could be symbolism in burning the captured pilot. Before that moment in the video, images of destruction, possibly from coalition bombings, are shown.
“It appears they’re trying to create this perverse moral symmetry between this pilot, the coalition, dropping bombs from the sky- dropping fire from the sky I’m sure they would say- and then his being burned alive in turn,” said Ollivant.
Experts say ISIS may have wanted to show a different kind of cruelty here because this was a combatant against them as opposed to the aid-workers and journalists they beheaded. They may have felt there was value in showing other potential enemies this is what happens when you take to the battlefield against us.
“This is a tactic that’s worked before for ISIS in Iraq. They put out a series of brutal videos last year, and that did have an impact on Iraqi soldiers, who turned and fled from Mosul when ISIS advanced on the town, despite the fact that the Iraqi army vastly outnumbered ISIS at the time,” said Paul Cruickshank, CNN Terrorism Analyst.
Unlike previous videos, this one doesn’t feature the British ISIS executioner known as ‘Jihadi John.’ Possibly because it’s geared toward a different audience. There could be a much more blunt, unvarnished explanation for the brutality of this murder: that this particular group of terrorists just enjoys the cruelty.
“There is some element, when you watch this, that is just sickening, and makes you think that there’s also just a cruelty-for-cruelty’s sake,” said Tara Maller, Former CIA Officer.
Was this part of the cruelty? People gathered in Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold inside Syria, watching the pilot’s death on a big screen outside. It’s not clear if they did this on their own or were forced to watch.