ISIS militants to be wiped out, says Jordan minister
Air attacks to intensify
Jordan is going after Islamic State group militants wherever they are and plans to "wipe them out completely," Jordan's interior minister said, as Jordanian fighter jets struck the group's positions for the third consecutive day Saturday.
It was the latest in a series of warnings of harsh retaliation after the militants released a video of them burning a Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. The gruesome images sparked widespread anger in Jordan and the region.
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The kingdom joined a U.S.-led military coalition in September, but said after the killing of the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, that it would intensify its air attacks. The campaign began Thursday, with state media reporting new strikes Saturday.
Interior Minister Hussein al-Majali said al-Kaseasbeh's killing was a turning point for Jordan.
He told the state-run al-Rai newspaper in comments published Saturday that Jordan will go after the militants "wherever they are."
The most recent airstrikes are "the beginning of a continued process to eliminate them and wipe them out completely," he said of the militants who control about a third of neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
The heightened confrontation has raised concerns about possible Islamic State group attacks in Jordan.
The minister said security services have a tight grip and are ready for "anyone who wants to interfere in the security of Jordan." He urged Jordanians to report suspicious behaviour, particular in neighbourhoods with large numbers of non-Jordanians.
UAE joins fight
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates said Saturday it ordered a squadron of F-16 fighters to Jordan, which an official said would participate in airstrikes on the Islamic State group after the UAE earlier suspended its involvement.
The UAE fighter jets will participate in airstrikes on Islamic State targets, said a Jordanian official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue to journalists.
The UAE announcement, carried by the state news agency WAM, did not say what role the Emirati warplanes would play. An Emirati official declined to elaborate.
Parents still hopeful
The parents of a 26-year-old American who Islamic State extremists say was killed in an airstrike in Syria said in a statement addressed to group leaders that the claim of their daughter's death concerned them but they were still hopeful she was alive.
The Islamic State group said on Friday that Kayla Jean Mueller of Prescott, Arizona, died in a Jordanian airstrike, but the government of Jordan dismissed the statement as "criminal propaganda," and the U.S. said it had not seen any evidence to corroborate the report.
Mueller is the only known remaining U.S. hostage held by the Islamic State group.
If the death is confirmed, she would be the fourth American to die while being held by Islamic State militants. Three others — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig — were beheaded by the group.
"You told us that you treated Kayla as your guest, as your guest her safety and well-being remains your responsibility," Mueller's family said in a short statement released Friday.
Mueller is an aid worker who previously volunteered with organizations in India, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Her identity had not been disclosed until now out of fears for her safety. Her family said she was taken hostage by the Islamic State group on Aug. 4, 2013, while leaving a hospital in Syria.
"The common thread of Kayla's life has been her quiet leadership and strong desire to serve others," Mueller's family said.