A Jordanian ISIS Member Tells How He Watched Jordanian Pilot Burned Alive
Abu Ali, 38, from Jordan after 4 month terrorist activity in Syria in mid-January 2015 escaped from turkey border. He had another name and another life, but like most migrants to the Islamic State, he had cast it off. He wanted to be born again.
After he join to ISIS (Islamic State, ISIL, IS , Daesh) and when he was under background investigation he stayed in ISIS reception house. “It was a large, one-storey building with a garden out back, and about a dozen other new arrivals were getting acclimatized.It was like an airport,” Abu Ali says. “I saw Americans, English, French, people from other countries – there was only one Syrian.”
“There were chickens in the garden out back, and the emir insisted that only the Americans and Europeans be allowed to slaughter them. It was training for killing infidels, he said.”
At the end of five days, the new recruits were told it was time to leave. Abu Ali got into a minibus with about 15 others into the Bel’as mountains, a dry, craggy range of dun-coloured peaks to the east of the city of Homs.
For the next two weeks, all of the men would be woken up before dawn. They would perform the dawn prayer, then go outside for running and press-ups before the sharia lessons began at first light. The lessons were very basic, focusing on the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims, and the requirement to fight infidels and apostates.
This was clearly some sort of loyalty test. Abu Ali felt their eyes on him, and he began to shake. He had been taught as a child that burning a man to death was forbidden in Islam. The images had sickened him. He heard himself say, ‘May God help me.’
One night the emir in charge of the training course, a bald Syrian with pale skin who, in his previous life, had been a history teacher in Homs, said there was a special event in store.
Once the men were all seated on the cave floor, the emir turned on the projector and a video flickered on the cave wall: an Arab man in an orange jumpsuit in a cage. Flames licked towards the cage, following a trail of petrol, and engulfed the man.
A voiceover intoned that this was the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who had been captured after his plane crashed. His grotesque execution by fire, in February 2015, was seizing the world’s attention at that moment, and even some “jihadis” were denouncing it as an immoral act.
The emir stood up and explained that this pilot had dropped bombs on Muslims, and his execution by fire was a just retribution under Islamic law. The men listened in silence.
“Abu Ali soon sensed dozens of eyes turning in his direction. He was the only Jordanian there, and they all knew it. He had not said anything, but his horror at the video must have been visible on his face. The emir also stared at him.”
Two Isis guards took him by the arms and led him out of the cave. The emir followed later. He sat down on the rocks with Abu Ali and asked him why he had spoken those words. Did he question what Isis had done? Abu Ali said no. He had only spoken out because people were provoking him.
The emir seemed satisfied. ‘At the beginning of this course you were a kafir (an unbeliever),’ he said. ‘Now you are becoming a Muslim.’
Abu Ali was intensely relieved. He had escaped punishment. But from that moment on, he told me, ‘I began to suspect everything around me.’
When the two-week sharia course was over, most of the men were transported to another group of damp mountain caves a few miles away. They now started the military training class. Abu Ali, with his smoker’s lungs, would just sit down on the rocks when he got tired.
The trainers shouted at him, and he would hold up his hand and shout back: ‘I’m doing administration, not combat.’ He was already getting a reputation as a laggard.
On the last day of the course, the men were summoned from their cave in the morning and asked to recite an oath of loyalty. Abu Ali found himself standing with about three dozen other men near a bus.
A Syrian commander in battle fatigues told them they were going to the frontlines in Iraq. ‘Sir, I don’t want to go to the frontline,’ Abu Ali told the commander. ‘They said I could do administration in Raqqa.’
The commander looked at him, stone-faced. ‘You swore an oath,’ he said. ‘You must listen and obey now. The penalty could be death.’ Abu Ali stood for a moment, registering the shock, then he walked towards the bus.