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'IS' shoots down coalition fighter plane

December 24, 2014

A British watchdog organization has confirmed claims made by "Islamic State" that they shot down an enemy plane. Photos of the pilot surrounded by militants have been uploaded to jihadist websites.

IS capture Jordanian pilot
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group

A warplane from the US-coalition was shot down near the "Islamic State" (IS) controlled northern Syrian city of Raqqa on Wednesday and the jihadists claim to have captured a Jordanian pilot.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the crash and capture, saying "We have confirmed reports that IS members took a (non-Syrian) Arab pilot prisoner after shooting his plane down with an anti-aircraft missile near Raqqa city." This is the first time a coalition aircraft has been hit by suspected IS militants since forces led by the US began their airstrikes in Syria three months ago.

The IS group based in Raqqa published photographs on sympathetic websites showing their fighters allegedly surrounding the captured pilot, identifying him as a Jordanian national and giving his name. Other photographs show the pilot being carried from the water by a group of men, then on dry land with about a dozen IS fighters.

Another photograph was released of the pilot's alleged military identification card, showing his name as Maaz al-Kassasbeh, a 1988 birthdate, and his rank of first lieutenant.

The militants claim to have used a heat-seeking missile to shoot down the plane.

Jordanian authorities confirmed that the pilot was one of their own: "During a mission Wednesday morning conducted by several Jordanian Air Force planes against hideouts of the IS terrorist organisation in the Raqqa region, one of the planes went down and the pilot was taken hostage," the government in Petra quoted a source from the military's general staff as saying.

Al-Kassasbeh's father Youssef said the family had been informed by the air force of his capture, accoring to a local news outlet.

"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, calling for the jihadists to show "mercy and free my son."

Jordan, along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has joined with Western countries in an American-led alliance formed to launch airstrikes against IS in Syria. The coalition has particularly targeted Raqqa, which the jihadists are using as headquarters.

es/mg (AFP, AP, dpa)

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