ISIL captures Jordanian pilot afterplane is downed in Syria: Jordanian military

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the plane was brought down near Raqqa city and ISIL-affiliated social media accounts published pictures purportedly of the pilot.
A handout image distribute by Jordanian News Agency shows Jordanian pilot Lt Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, the Jordanian pilot captured by ISIL group's fighters after they shot down a warplane from the US-led coalition with an anti-aircraft missile near Raqqa city. EPA / Jordan News Agency
A handout image distribute by Jordanian News Agency shows Jordanian pilot Lt Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, the Jordanian pilot captured by ISIL group's fighters after they shot down a warplane from the US-led coalition with an anti-aircraft missile near Raqqa city. EPA / Jordan News Agency

BEIRUT // ISIL has captured a Jordanian pilot after his plane went down in Syria’s eastern Raqqa province, Jordan’s military confirmed on Wednesday.

The military did not say why the plane went down, but ISIL supporters and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said it had been shot with an anti-aircraft missile.

The Observatory said the jet was shot down near Raqqa city, a major stronghold for ISIL fighters.

“During a mission Wednesday morning, conducted by several Jordanian Air Force planes against hideouts of the ... terrorist organisation in the Raqqa region, one of the planes went down and the pilot was taken hostage [by ISIL],” a source from the military’s general staff was quoted as saying by Petra, Jordan’s official news agency.

ISIL released photographs of the captured pilot and showed a military card identifying him as 26-year-old first lieutenant Maaz Al-Kassasbeh.

His father, Youssef, was quoted by Jordanian news website Saraya as saying the family had been informed of his capture by the Jordanian air force.

Youssef said he was told the military was “working to save [his son’s] life” and that Jordan’s ruler, King Abdullah II, was following events.

“My other son met with the commander of the Jordanian air force who confirmed to him that my son Maaz was captured by IS,” he said, referring to the group by it’s self-declared acronym. He called for the extremists to show “mercy and free my son”.

Youssef said his son had served in the air force for six years.

Both the Syrian government and a US-led coalition set up to fight ISIL regularly bomb the extremist group’s targets in Raqqa province. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government or officials from countries participating in the coalition about the news.

The coalition, which includes Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, is the biggest US-Arab military venture since the 1991 Gulf War.

If confirmed that ISIL downed the jet, it would be the first time the group has managed to shoot down a plane from the US-led coalition since the start of air strikes on the group in Syria in September.

* Reuters and Agence France-Presse

Published: December 24, 2014 04:00 AM

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