Amman : Islamic State group militants captured a Jordanian pilot after shooting down his warplane while conducting airstrikes over Syria, Jordan said Wednesday, in the extremists’ first successful downing of an aircraft from the international coalition waging an air campaign against the group.
The show of the extremists’ capabilities underscored the risks for the United States and the multiple Arab and European countries whose warplanes are participating in bombing campaign aimed at pushing back the jihadis’ control across much of Syria and Iraq. It also posed Jordan with a nightmare scenario _ its pilot was the first foreign soldier to fall into the extremists’ hands.
It was not immediately known how the fighters shot down the warplane. But the Islamic State group is known to have stocks of Russian-made Igla anti-aircraft missiles. The shoulder-fired weapon has long been in the Syrian and Iraqi government arsenals _ it was used during the 1991 Gulf War by Iraqi forces to down a British Tornado jet, for example. More recently, militants in Chechnya have used them to down Russian helicopters.
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told The Associated Press that the plane was shot down by “ground fire” but did not elaborate.
Activists monitoring the conflict said Islamic State group fighters shot down the warplane near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.
The Raqqa Media Center published a photograph said to be of the pilot _ in a white shirt, naked from the waist down and sopping wet – being pulled by gunmen out of what appeared to be a lake. Another picture shows him surrounded by more than a dozen fighters, some of them masked. The center said IS fighters are scouring the area in case there is a second pilot.
The United States and several Arab allies have been striking the Islamic State group in Syria since Sept. 23, and U.S. and other international warplanes have been waging an air campaign against the extremists in Iraq for even longer. The campaign aims to push back the jihadi organization after it took over much of Iraq and Syria and declared a “caliphate.”
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the Syria strikes, with Qatari logistical support.
The pilot’s capture raises a nightmare scenario for Jordan, which has been sharply criticized by militant sympathizers for its participation. IS in the past has beheaded dozens of Syrian soldiers it captured in operations around the country. The group has also beheaded three Americans and two Britons.
Moman, the informational minister, vowed that “the war on terrorism will continue,” saying, the fight with the extremists was “to defend the Islamic religion.”
Jordan’s military said in a statement that as its air force was carrying out.