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Jordanian Military Pilot Killed by ISIS; A Country Scarred by ISIS; Former Hostage Tells of ISIS Brutality; Imagine a World

Aired February 3, 2015 - 14:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Jordan announces the murder of pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh after ISIS releases video of him being

burned alive.

So what will the king do now? Reaction from former foreign minister to the depth of this ISIS depravity. Plus an exclusive interview with my

French colleague, himself held hostage by ISIS for 10 months. Didier Francois lived to tell his story and says religion is not what motivates

his captors.


DIDIER FRANCOIS, JOURNALIST AND FORMER HOSTAGE (voice-over): This was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran

because it does not seem to lose the Quran, we didn't even have the Quran. They did not want to give us a Quran.



AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight: Jordan's worst fears have been realized as ISIS shows that it has, in fact, killed their pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh, after days

pretending to negotiate his fate with the government.

After gruesome pictures of Kassasbeh's fiery death by immolation began to circulate online, Jordanian state television confirmed it and

furthermore said that he had been killed a month ago on January 3rd. That's more than three weeks before ISIS publicly tried to link his face --

his fate to their demand.

That Jordan release had failed suicide bomber from death row, Sajida al-Rishawi. This weekend ISIS had beheaded the Japanese journalist, Kenji

Goto, who also had been linked to that prisoner swap.

All along, Jordan had demanded proof their pilot was still alive. Now we know why they never got it. In the streets of Maaz al-Kassasbeh's

hometown and across Jordan, there is, of course, grief and shock and anger.

Joining me now from Washington is the former Jordanian foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Marwan Muasher. He's now vice

president for studies at the Global Think Tank Carnegie.

Marwan, thank you for joining us. The king has cut short a visit to the United States and is headed back.

What do you think is the reaction that he is going to face when he gets home?

MARWAN MUASHER, JORDANIAN DEPUTY PM: Well, there's a lot of anger obviously and shock for what has happened and in the way in which it

happened, Christiane. I think that actually I expect Jordanians to be united this evening, no matter what their political positions are, behind

the king on this one.

I -- this is -- this has not happened in this way many times in Jordan. And the way it was carried out I think will get everybody united


AMANPOUR: Because of course, when we spoke before during these negotiations, you correctly pointed out that the king was caught between

two very, very difficult options when it came to the idea of a prisoner swap, releasing this death row prisoner because so many of the tribes and

others believe that this coalition against ISIS is simply not their war.

So you say they'll be united.

Do you think the king can persuade them that actually this is their war?

MUASHAR: I think regardless of whether they will consider it their war or not, I think the way in which this was carried out will get

Jordanians together, tribes and otherwise. In fact, there are already public calls in the public for a retaliatory action against ISIS.

And in fact I do expect the government to do that, probably in implementing the death sentence against the four ISIS hostages --

terrorists that we have, including Sajida al-Rishawi.

AMANPOUR: So you think she will actually now be put to death? She's on death row.

MUASHAR: I think so. I think the Jordanians probably will expect a retaliatory action like that. We are, of course, a country of laws and

institutions and since death sentence has already been passed on these four, I think that there will be a public call to implement that death

sentence and implement it soon.

AMANPOUR: Do you believe there's any risk that Jordan will pull back from the coalition?

MUASHAR: I don't think so and particularly not after today. I think the king has made it clear that he sees that as a war of values for

moderate Islam and I think that particularly after the way in which it was carried today, I think that Jordan has no option but to carry ahead with

the fight against ISIS.

AMANPOUR: Marwan, how do you think, how do you suppose the Jordanian military knows that Maaz was actually killed a month ago?

And what do you think then all of this posturing and public negotiating and trying to get him back was all about?

Do you think they had any idea even over the last weeks where this has become public?

MUASHAR: Well, the reports are still coming in so we don't really know for sure. My guess is that the military has suspicions based on

intelligence that Maaz al-Kassasbeh might have been killed and that is probably why the government insisted all along on proof of life before they

would release Sajida al-Rishawi.

I think that explains the position that the Jordanian government had all along.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, Marwan, we'll obviously keep following this, Marwan Muashar, former foreign minister of Jordan, thank you so much

for joining us.

And of course, King Abdullah has been in Washington on a special visit there. He is commander of the Jordanian military forces and he is headed

back, of course, to Jordan, cutting his visit short and recording, taping a message for his people as he headed back to them.

Japan has also been obviously traumatized by ISIS recently. ISIS beheaded two of its citizens and a shocked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swore

that he would never forgive the terrorists.

Tonight, his foreign policy adviser, Tomohiko Taniguchi, told me that Japan would keep helping countries like Jordan, which are overflowing with

refugees from Syria, and he said neither the people of Japan nor the prime minister's resolve would be shaken.


TOMOHIKO TANIGUCHI, ADVISER TO JAPANESE PM SHINZO ABE: He is going to do as much as he can to bring those criminals into justice. He is not

going to forget what these two citizens from Japan have had to endure.


AMANPOUR: And after a break, we turn to a man who could have been killed by ISIS. I speak to a colleague who survived and is now telling

important information about these terrorists.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And as we bring you the shocking news of the murder of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, we're

reminded that ISIS are still holding the British journalist John Cantlie as well as two female aid workers, one of them an American, whose identity has

not been revealed at this time.

But President Obama says the Americans are trying to find her.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are deploying all the assets that we can, working with all the coalition allies that we can

to identify their locations. And we are in very close contact with the family, trying to keep them updated.

Obviously this is something that is heartbreaking for families.


AMANPOUR: A long-time colleague, the French journalist, Didier Francois, was abducted by ISIS in Northern Syria in June 2013. He, along

with three other French journalists, were eventually freed 10 months later. And Didier is now speaking out. It's his first television interview and we

spoke just before news of the Jordanian pilot's murder.

He told me about sharing a cell with James Foley and the many others who were publicly beheaded and about coming face to face with the notorious

executioner known as Jihadi John.


AMANPOUR: Didier Francois, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: The President of the United States has just announced that in fact an American hostage, a woman, is being held still by ISIS.

You knew that she was there.

Did you ever meet her?

FRANCOIS: Yes, twice.

AMANPOUR: You met her twice when you were both captives?


AMANPOUR: Were you held in the same space?

FRANCOIS: I don't want to get into details really about the situation. I'm not sure it would be safe for her. And as long as she's in

there, and as President Obama said, everything is done to try to free her alive. I don't think it will be very wise to elaborate.

AMANPOUR: Then let me ask you how they treated women hostages compared to men.

FRANCOIS: No, they were in a separate room. We didn't see them much. They were usually not handcuffed so they were --

AMANPOUR: They were not handcuffed?

FRANCOIS: No. They had a bit more freedom of movement and sometimes they were forced to cook. And they were also always moving us separate in

a car during the moving between places.

But it's frightening enough to be held by ISIS and being a woman is -- doesn't make it easier.

AMANPOUR: Who were you held with?

FRANCOIS: There were 19 men in the same room at the end of my detention. Of them were three Americans, Steven Sotloff, James Foley and

of course Peter Kassig, plus two British -- three British, sorry; Alan Henning, David Haines and John Cantlie.

AMANPOUR: They're all dead except for John Cantlie.

FRANCOIS: Yes, so far.

AMANPOUR: Who's being forced to --

FRANCOIS: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: -- perform propaganda for ISIS.

FRANCOIS: Absolutely.

That's something which is very important to keep in mind, he's held as an hostage. He's not a free man.

AMANPOUR: Of course.

I mean, how must you be thanking your lucky stars or whatever intervened to get you freed before ISIS' killing spree of their hostages,

before they started slitting the throats?

FRANCOIS: Yes. We were lucky. The all-French group was lucky. The continental Europeans were lucky, because all of us have been released.

Yet I'm not sure that there will be a possibility for getting us released now especially with France involved in the coalition and bombing


AMANPOUR: Let's go back to the beginning of your story.

How do you know that you were held by ISIS?

FRANCOIS: Oh, that's very easy.


FRANCOIS: They don't -- they don't hide it. I mean, they were very, very clear about it, very frank about it. Plus they are trying to frighten

you, do you know who we are? It's thought that like we are Al Qaeda but not really Al Qaeda. We are ISIS. We are a state. We're the Islamic


They are claiming what they are.

AMANPOUR: How did they treat you?

FRANCOIS: We were detained in eight different places because we moved --

AMANPOUR: They moved you around to eight different places?

FRANCOIS: Yes. But we always stayed in Syria, always with ISIS. There was no other group catching us or setting us. It was ISIS from day


We could hear the Syrian prisoners in the first places where we were detained -- in the Aleppo hospital, for instance -- they were -- we were in

a room but there were also some Syrian and Iraqi prisoners there, local people who were detained for whatever reasons you could -- they smoked or

because the girls were not wearing the proper --


FRANCOIS: -- veil or whatever.

And they were beaten and tortured. And we could hear them behind the doors. We could see some of them in the corridors when we were taken to

the toilets, because we had two (INAUDIBLE) toilets. And we could see some people lying in their blood.

There were some rooms in which torture was taking place every night and sometimes we were put into those rooms. And you could see the chains

hanging or the ropes hanging or the iron bars and things.

So yes. And plus we had interrogations.

AMANPOUR: So you were constantly threatened; you could see what was happening to others, the torture and the barbarity.

FRANCOIS: But we were -- we are not treated that way --

AMANPOUR: You were not tortured.

FRANCOIS: -- no, we got a beating. It was hard and it was not --

AMANPOUR: What exactly happened to you?

I know everybody tries to play down what happened.

But were you beaten up?

FRANCOIS: Yes, of course, we were beaten up. But it was not every day.

Look, I mean, it's hard enough. You don't have to overplay it. It's hard enough to lose your freedom. It's hard enough to be in the hands of

people who you know are killing hundreds and thousands of local Syrians, Iraqis, Libyans, Tunisians, can put bombs in our countries.

They use violence as a way of ruling. They want to rule the prisons the way they want to rule the organizations, they always want to rule the

world by terrorizing you. But they don't use it all the time.

It's hard enough because I spent 10 months and a half and it's really long without a book, without anything but plus the problem is that the

guards who are always jumpy.

So one day --

AMANPOUR: The guards are always freaking out?

FRANCOIS: -- freaking out -- one day, you they come and give you a sweet for whatever reason. Two hours later, he come and beat you up. And

that's what makes it difficult. I mean, you never know on which foot I mean to stand and which foot you are mean to stand.

AMANPOUR: Did you think you were going to lose your life?

Did you ever think you were going to be free?

FRANCOIS: Well, basically what I knew is what my government and my country will do everything it can to free me. Now they are not responsible

for the fact that I was caught. I was detained.

And it was a decision of my captors. They are the ones to blame. So my government will do everything they can. But they were not bound to

succeed; if they decided to kill us, they would have killed us. And they have killed many people.

AMANPOUR: Do you know how you were freed?

Do you know whether money was paid for you, what kind of negotiations?

FRANCOIS: It's never only a question of money. If it was only money, let's have plenty of money. I mean, this -- I read this in the press all

the time, about the money, the amounts; utterly ridiculous. Really, that's not the way it works.

Don't forget, I mean, we might disagree with those people and we do disagree with hardly -- badly disagree with people. But that doesn't --

it's not a crazy --

AMANPOUR: This is the head of ISIS.


AMANPOUR: Abu Bakr --

FRANCOIS: -- Baghdadi, he's an Iraqi. He's a leader and he has a policy. He has a strategy. He always tries to push the Sunni tribes, the

Bedouins, to fight against the Shia or the Yazidi or the Christians.

He always try to play communities one against the other. That's how he survives. That's how he recruits. I mean, he's using, of course, those

young guys coming from Europe or for all of the place. But it's only one part of his organization.

The strongest part of his organization are the tribes, the local Sunni tribes, who are actually following him for political reasons. So he's

making politics.

AMANPOUR: I want to talk about some of your other co-prisoners like James Foley.

But first I want to pick up on what you're talking about, because obviously we all focus on the Western jihadis who are going over.

You've just said that the local tribes, those are the jihadis that are most important.

But I want to ask you about these Westerners, people like Jihadi John, who's been seen in these videos, knife to the throat, people believe that

he's the one who's committed the executions. He's clearly English of some sort.

Did you ever meet him?

FRANCOIS: Yes, of course.

AMANPOUR: What was he like?

FRANCOIS: Well, you can see on the video, he's not somebody you'd like to have to deal with.

AMANPOUR: Was he your guard?

FRANCOIS: He was one of them, yes.

AMANPOUR: And did he threaten you?

FRANCOIS: Of course he did.

AMANPOUR: Some have said --


AMANPOUR: -- some fellow captives have said that the Brits were the most appallingly brutal.

FRANCOIS: All of them had a way of running the prison or the captives and to put them at our thumbs, OK?

AMANPOUR: Put you under their thumbs?

FRANCOIS: Yes, that's what they want. They want you to be under their thumbs, that's all. And so basically they want you to give away your

freedom, your freedom of -- your will and you -- they want you to accept, to be under the orders and on everything. They don't like when you start

to negotiate, speak, ask, demand. They don't like it, especially with the Beatles, OK?

AMANPOUR: The Beatles? Let's be clear: it's the name that was given to the four Brits.

FRANCOIS: Yes, because we didn't know their names so we are calling them the Beatles (INAUDIBLE) because there were three, basically --


FRANCOIS: -- three of them were --

AMANPOUR: So John, Paul, George, Ringo?

FRANCOIS: Oh, la, la. That was -- that was -- that was the nicknames.

But so they were archer (ph) in their violence. And but at the same time they were hitting us, because of course when you beat someone, then

you have to, yes, be in a better shape.

AMANPOUR: So you have to feed them up to get them strong and then beat them up again.

FRANCOIS: More food with them.

AMANPOUR: Obviously he first came to global prominence with that horrendous video with James Foley.

Do you believe he was the killer?

FRANCOIS: Yes, I do.


How did they treat James Foley?

James Foley was with you.

FRANCOIS: Yes, he was.

AMANPOUR: In the same cell.


AMANPOUR: How did he get treated?

FRANCOIS: Well, again, that's what I'm saying. James was an amazing friend and hostage. I mean, he never gave up. He had a fantastic hearth.


FRANCOIS: Heart; sorry. He was a -- he was great. He was a -- he was always trying to get things for the others, was asking for some bread

or for some -- what I'm asking for some bread, that's for a little piece of bread, an extra piece of bread, you know, when that was, one of the

Beatles, John, was asking do you need something, obviously didn't expect any of us to say, yes, we do need something.

The answer should be, no, everything's fine.

But James would say, yes, we need vegetables because, you know, we need it and of course he will have never be punished because that was the

word they were using, I mean, (INAUDIBLE), if you don't -- bad thing, whatever, (INAUDIBLE).

But I think they didn't like the fact that he was not broken. And that's the reason why he was getting more beatings because he was not

broken. He was still fighting in his way. He was still arguing. He was never giving way. And that's the reason why he was attracting this kind of


AMANPOUR: Harsher punishment.

FRANCOIS: -- exactly.

AMANPOUR: Did they ever talk to you, people like Jihadi John, the Beatles, some of the French jihadis, about their background, about why they

were there?

FRANCOIS: First, I was French and my English is not that good so and plus they were not too much into discussing with us as -- the Beatles -- so

they were doing some kind of dower predication (ph) -- you know, they were trying to teach us --

AMANPOUR: They were trying to teach you about the Quran?

FRANCOIS: Yes. But this was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran because it does not seem to lose the

Quran, we didn't even have the Quran. They did not want to give us a Quran.

So it's not that -- it has nothing to do with Quran.


AMANPOUR: So these are not religious fanatics.

FRANCOIS: No. It is -- it is what they believe and what they think and they try to hammer into you because that's what they trust. I mean, it

has nothing to do with Quran. It's their way of looking at things.

AMANPOUR: You came across two of the most notorious and the most wanted, Jihadi John, but also Mehdi Nemmouche was one of your guards.

Is that correct?

FRANCOIS: Yes, he was. AMANPOUR: He obviously went on to kill people at the Jewish Museum in Belgium; he is under arrest now.

But then, when he was your guard, you say he was particularly awful and particularly vile.

FRANCOIS: Not with us, again, because he had orders. They told me at one stage I would like threaten you but my chief don't want it. So OK.

Might be lucky if negotiations failed. But at the end of -- but he was very violent with the Syrian prisoners.

And he was bragging that he was actually torturing them. Plus he was also bragging the fact that he will in the future -- that was at the time,

you know -- attack Jews. He was totally anti-Semitic, very strongly.

AMANPOUR: You continue to be a journalist.

FRANCOIS: Yes, of course.

AMANPOUR: You're on radio.

Would you go back?

FRANCOIS: I went in Iraq but I'm very comfortable. I've never been crazy before and we are -- and you know, Christiane, we are doing a job.

So we are taking risks depending on the importance of the news.

AMANPOUR: Calculated.

FRANCOIS: Calculating risks because of the news we want to (INAUDIBLE). At the time, remember it was -- I was captured in the 6th of

June or the 5th of June; broke out the fact that Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons against his own people. I think the risk I took to show

it was worth it, because that's my job as a journalist.

AMANPOUR: It was worth taking that risk?

FRANCOIS: If it was -- I would not have taken the risk knowing the situation was really deteriorating if it was just to interview a refugee in

a camp. I don't say -- it's not good to do that. But I mean, the risk- taking would have been much too high.

But because of the situation, I thought that I could take the risk. I was obviously wrong.


FRANCOIS: But that's what I did.

AMANPOUR: Didier Francois, thank God you're safe.

FRANCOIS: Yes, thank you. I'm very lucky.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

FRANCOIS: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: One of the lucky ones indeed. But after a break, a final word on who was Maaz al-Kassasbeh. Remembering more than just his fiery

end -- that's next.




AMANPOUR: And a final thought tonight is perhaps best spared for the Jordanian pilot, Maaz al-Kassasbeh. Imagine a young man who grew up to

join his air force, to defend his country and his family, who volunteered for a unique mission against a powerful threat to that family, to that

nation and to his faith.

Maaz al-Kassasbeh joined the coalition from the Arab world conducting airstrikes against ISIS. He was flying his Lockheed-Martin F-16 when he

crashed and was captured near Raqqa in Syria, the ISIS headquarters. That was in December.

Only 27 years old, he grew up in the Jordanian city of Karak with his seven siblings before following his uncle, a general, into the military.

He leaves behind a wife, parents and a country all grieving and his murder has triggered a wave of condemnation and resolve across the globe.


OBAMA: 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 global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated.

And it also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they are operating off of, it's bankrupt.


AMANPOUR: And as his king, Jordan's King Abdullah, heads back to face his people, there are many who hope that this barbarity will unite them to

stand behind them as they try to face this challenge.

And that is it for our program tonight. Remember you can always see the whole show online at, and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.