The Islamic State has released a video showing a captured Jordanian fighter pilot being burned alive inside a cage. First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh was captured in December when his F-16 crashed in northern Syria during an airstrike as part of the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State. Speaking before the video was confirmed, Obama said it would only increase U.S. efforts against ISIS.
President Obama: “I don’t know the details of the confirmations, but should in fact this video be authentic, it’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization. And it, I think, will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated.”
Jordan had hoped to free the pilot by exchanging a female prisoner held for an attempted suicide bombing. Early this morning, Jordan executed Sajida al-Rishawi, along with another prisoner. Jordanian government spokesperson Mohammad al-Momani has vowed to wage a firm response to the burning.
Mohammad al-Momani: “Whoever doubted that Jordan’s response would be firm, tough and strong, we will show them the proof, and they will learn that the anger of Jordanians will shake their ranks. The martyred pilot does not belong to a specific tribe, and he is not a son of a specific governorate, but he is the son of all Jordanians, being united as they have been throughout their history.”
Sunni Islam’s most prominent educational center, Al-Azhar, has issued a call for the “killing, crucifixion and chopping of the limbs of Islamic State terrorists.” The burning of the pilot has ignited particular outrage since Islam forbids the cremation of the body. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates, a key ally in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS, has suspended its role over concerns about pilots’ safety. Unnamed officials told The New York Times the country stopped airstrikes in December.
A jailed former al-Qaeda operative has issued new allegations about ties between al-Qaeda and the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Zacarias Moussaoui volunteered to testify as part of a lawsuit filed against Saudi Arabia by relatives of the victims of 9/11. His testimony, gathered inside a U.S. supermax prison where he is serving a life sentence on terrorism charges, was submitted as part of a legal brief Tuesday. Moussaoui said in the late 1990s he had created a database of al-Qaeda donors, which included then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal; longtime Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, known as Bandar Bush; and top investor Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. He also described meeting with an official who worked for the Saudi Embassy in Washington to discuss a possible plan to shoot down Air Force One. The revelations come just days after President Obama visited Saudi Arabia, where he welcomed the new King Salman.
In eastern Ukraine, at least five people have been killed amidst heavy shelling that damaged a hospital and several schools. Renewed violence between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels erupted last month. More than 200 people have been killed in the past three weeks alone.
In Argentina, a draft request for the arrest of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been found at the home of a late prosecutor who was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85 people. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman had accused Fernández of helping to cover up Iran’s role in the bombing in a bid for oil. He was found dead of a gunshot wound the day before he was due to testify before Congress on his findings. The request for the arrest of Fernández and her foreign minister was found in his trash. So far two judges have refused to take up Nisman’s findings, and the prosecutor investigating his death has announced she will take a two-week vacation.
Pope Francis has declared Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero a martyr to the Catholic faith, a step that paves the way for Romero’s beatification and possible sainthood. Known as the “voice of the voiceless,” Archbishop Romero was a prominent advocate for the poor and a leading critic of the U.S.-backed Salvadoran military government. He was killed nearly 35 years ago, on March 24, 1980, by members of a U.S.-backed death squad while he delivered mass at a hospital chapel. His assassination was ordered by Salvadoran military officer Roberto d’Aubuisson, a graduate of the U.S.-run School of the Americas. In the 1989 film “Romero,” actor Raúl Juliá reenacts a dramatic moment in Romero’s life — one day before his assassination, when he called on the Salvadoran army to heed the words of God: “Thou shalt not kill.”
Raúl Juliá: “No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. In his name, and in the name of our tormented people who have suffered so much and whose laments cry out to heaven, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: Stop the repression!”
Romero’s supporters have long called for him to be placed on the path to sainthood, but his case has been blocked by right-wing church leaders who oppose his ties to liberation theology, a religious movement which seeks to end economic and political injustice.
In the United States, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou has been released from prison. Kiriakou exposed the Bush-era torture program and became the only official jailed in connection with it. In January 2013, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to confirming the identity of a covert officer to a reporter, who did not publish it. His supporters say he was unfairly targeted as part of the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers. In 2007, he became the first CIA official to publicly confirm the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding. A Twitter post Tuesday shows Kiriakou smiling with his children, with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote “Free at last, free at least, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.” He remains under house arrest for three months.
The Obama administration has announced a series of minor surveillance reforms that leave its bulk spying operations in place. The reforms tighten how agencies use the communications of foreigners and place a three-year limit on gag orders for people who receive secretive subpoenas known as national security letters. Obama has called for Congress to end the bulk spying program exposed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, but critics point out Obama could end it himself.
The Environmental Protection Agency has warned the Keystone XL pipeline would fuel climate change by increasing oil production in the Canadian tar sands. An earlier State Department analysis found the pipeline would not have an impact, because the oil would be transported through other means. But the EPA concludes the recent drop in oil prices means much of the oil would otherwise remain in the ground. It estimates the pipeline could increase greenhouse gas emissions by about as much as eight new coal-fired power plants. Obama has said climate change will play a key role in his final decision on whether to approve the pipeline.
Congress has approved a bill to address suicides among military veterans. An estimated 22 veterans kill themselves each day. The measure would impose independent reviews of VA suicide prevention programs, launch a peer support program, and gives incentives to psychiatrists who work for the VA. President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which passed both houses unanimously.
A New York City police officer has been indicted for assault after he was caught on video stomping on the head of an unarmed African American who was pinned to the ground and pleading for help. The attack took place in Brooklyn July 23, less than a week after the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Garner was also pinned to the ground while pleading, “I can’t breathe.” A grand jury declined to indict a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, for Garner’s death. But on Tuesday, Officer Joel Edouard, who is black, was arraigned on charges that could carry up to a year in jail. Cellphone video shows Edouard and another officer pinning Jahmiel Cuffee to the ground while he pleads, “Help me.”
Jahmiel Cuffee: “Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me!”
Bystander: “The nigga just took his gun out, man!”
Edouard briefly removes his gun before replacing it in the holster. He then walks away, returns to Cuffee and stomps on his head. Cuffee was charged with resisting arrest. Police accused him of drinking on the sidewalk and trying to throw away a joint. His case was later dismissed.
Alabama is poised to become the 37th state to allow same-sex marriage. A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected the state’s request to stay a lower court ruling that struck down its same-sex marriage ban. The ban will remain in effect until Monday as the state appeals to the Supreme Court.