Jordanian king vows to avenge pilot's killing by ISIS: 6 things about King Abdullah

His Majesty King Abdullah II, The Supreme Commander of Jordanian Armed Forces. -- PHOTO: THE ROYAL HASHEMITE COURT/ FACEBOOK
His Majesty King Abdullah II, The Supreme Commander of Jordanian Armed Forces. -- PHOTO: THE ROYAL HASHEMITE COURT/ FACEBOOK

The story that King Abdullah of Jordan was to personally lead air strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was "awesome" - and untrue.

But the monarch has made good on his promise to wreak harsh vengence on the extremist group after it burned Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh alive.

Jordanian fighter jets pounded Islamic State hideouts in Syria on Thursday and then roared over the hometown of the pilot, while below them King Abdullah consoled the victim's family.

Here's more about the Middle Eastern head of state:

1. Educated in Britain and the United States

King Abdullah, 53, is the eldest son of King Hussein Bin Talal (1935-1999) and Princess Muna Al Hussein. The princess, King Hussein's second wife, is an Englishwoman.

King Abdullah went to prestigious boarding schools in England and the United States. Later, he attended courses at Oxford's Pembroke College and Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

2. Military background

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While he did not personally lead the air raids, the photo of him in military gear is real. It was posted on the royal family's Facebook page on Feb 4.

Before becoming King in 1999, the then-prince was commander of Jordan's Special Forces, and a major general. He is also a qualified attack helicopter pilot.

A graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he served in the British Army in the 13/18th Royal Hussars Regiment. He joined the Jordan armed forces in 1985.

3. Queen Rania

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The King married his wife, Queen Rania Al-Yassin, in 1993. They met six months before at a dinner party, and it was love at first sight.

Queen Rania, 44, is known for her social work, but also as an international fashion icon. She has also written children's books.

She has been singled out both for being powerful as well as beautiful. Forbes named her as one of the most powerful women in the world in 2009, and People magazine listed her as one of the most beautiful.

They have four children, Crown Prince Hussein, 20, Princess Iman, 18, Princess Salma, 14 and Prince Hashem, 10. Prince Hashem shares the same birthday as his father - Jan 30.

4. Adventurous royal

The King likes to drive fast, and enjoys boating, scuba diving and free-fall parachuting. He also collects antique weapons and military artefacts. He was a Jordan National Rally champion.

5. Reformist intentions

King Abdullah did not expect to succeed his father King Hussein. His uncle, Hassan, was designated heir until 1999, shortly before King Hussein died.

He has attempted to modernise and reform his country since he became king, but has met resistance. In a 2013 interview with the Atlantic, he admitted that he had entertained thoughts of quitting the throne.

Jordan has been a staunch US ally, and joined the US military campaign to expel ISIS from Iraq and Syria early on.

6. Trekkie and film buff

In 1996, when he was the crown prince, King Abdullah played an uncredited role as a sciences ensign in the sci-fi series Star Trek.

And when Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen was filming in Jordan, he allowed the air force to help producers ferry equipment to the set. 

Sources: Reuters, BBC, Straits Times, The Atlantic, New York Times, King Abdullah's website

chuimin@sph.com.sg