(CNN) — Since last year, the fate of captive Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh was uncertain, but video and images released by ISIS show he met his demise at the hands of his captors.
Footage and images released by the Islamist extremists show the pilot in a cage, being burned alive. Jordanian state TV confirmed his death, but CNN could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video and images.
A message purporting to be from ISIS had previously presented an ultimatum for Jordan: Bring convicted terrorist Sajida al-Rishawi to the Turkish border by sunset January 29 or the pilot will die.
Tied to his fate was that of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, whose apparent beheading was shown in a video released by ISIS militants over the weekend.
Jordan had said it was ready to release al-Rishawi if al-Kassasbeh were to be released unharmed.
So who was al-Kassasbeh and how did he end up in ISIS’ hands?
Pictures of the Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot show a serious-looking, cleanshaven young man in military uniform.
According to the Jordan Times, an English-language newspaper published daily in the kingdom, the 27-year-old was a lieutenant.
One of eight children, he came from Karak Governorate in Jordan and graduated from King Hussein Air College, the newspaper says.
At the time of his capture, his father, Safi al-Kassasbeh, told the Jordan Times that his son was “a very modest and religious person,” who memorized the Quran and “was never harmful to anyone.”
The family’s desperation grew as time passed and as Moaz al-Kassasbeh’s fate was linked to that of Goto and the release of al-Rishawi.
Goto appeared to hold a picture of the pilot, now bearded, in a video message purported to be from ISIS that was released last month.
On the same day, Safi al-Kassasbeh joined hundreds of fellow Jordanians at a solidarity protest held in the capital, Amman, where he called on the Jordanian authorities to act to secure his son’s release.
“I firmly ask whomever has sent Moaz to fight outside the borders of Jordan, on a mission unrelated to us, to make strong efforts to bring back Moaz,” he said.
“Moaz’s blood is precious. It’s precious and it represents the blood of all Jordanians,” he said.
The plight of Moaz al-Kassasbeh surely resonated with Jordan’s King Abdullah, who has been a pillar of the international effort against ISIS and is himself a former helicopter pilot.
The young captive hailed from a high-ranking tribe considered especially loyal to the monarchy.
Abdullah’s wife, Queen Rania, posted an image to her 400,000 Instagram followers shortly after meeting with the pilot’s family.
“We are all Moaz,” it said in Arabic, beneath a picture representing a fighter jet in the colors of the Jordanian flag.
From the start, Jordan has played a pivotal part in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, but it was not a popular war within Jordan, which only added to the pressure on the authorities to secure al-Kassasbeh’s release.
‘They will kill me’
Late last month, ISIS published in its English-language online magazine Dabiq what it claimed was an “interview” with the pilot.
Al-Kassasbeh was shown wearing what appeared to be an orange jumpsuit.
Asked if he knew what ISIS would do with him, he replied: “Yes. They will kill me.”
Militants say they captured al-Kassasbeh after he ejected from his crashing F-16 on December 24, having taken part in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near ISIS’ de-facto capital, Raqqa.
Images provided by the extremist organization’s media wing and circulated widely on social media showed bearded men with Kalashnikovs pulling the terrified airman out of a nearby river.
“We entered the region of Raqqa to sweep the area, then the striker jets entered to begin their attack,” al-Kassasbeh said, according to the online publication. “My plane was struck by a heat-seeking missile. I heard and felt its hit.”
The Jordanian government and U.S. Central Command said the aircraft had crashed and adamantly stated ISIS had not shot it down, as the group claims.
“I checked the system display and it indicated that the engine was damaged and burning,” the pilot was quoted as saying. “The plane began to deviate from its normal flight path, so I ejected. I landed in the Furat River by parachute and the seat caught on some ground, keeping me fixed, until I was captured by soldiers of the Islamic State.”
CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz, Becky Anderson, Jomana Karadsheh and Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.