Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Islamic State Captures Jordanian F-16 Pilot

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Islamic State Captures Jordanian F-16 Pilot

Article excerpt

AMMAN, Jordan - Islamic State fighters took a Jordanian pilot prisoner after his warplane came down in northeast Syria on Wednesday, the first captive taken from the U.S.-led coalition battling the jihadi group.

Jordan's armed forces said one of its pilots had been captured after a coalition air raid over the province of Raqqa. There were contradictory accounts as to whether his aircraft had been shot down or not.

"Jordan holds the group [Islamic State] and its supporters responsible for the safety of the pilot and his life," said a statement read out on state television. It said the F-16 jet had crashed during a Jordanian air force "military mission against the hideouts of the terrorist group."

Jordan's government spokesman Mohammad Al-Momani told satellite TV station Al Hadath that the jet fighter "was shot at from the ground by rocket missiles and was brought down," and that an attempt to rescue the pilot before he was captured failed. He did not elaborate. But Mr. Momani later told Reuters that new assessments showed that there was no indication that the plane had been shot at by the militants. "We initially thought the plane might have been shot at, but we cannot confirm this now," he said.

An official source said King Abdullah met top commanders at the Jordanian military headquarters, where a round-the-clock operations room had been set up after the pilot's capture.

The U.S. military's Central Command said evidence showed that Islamic State did not shoot down the aircraft, but it did not disclose the nature of that evidence. The head of Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, said the United States would "support efforts to ensure his safe recovery and will not tolerate ISIL's attempts to misrepresent or exploit this unfortunate aircraft crash for their own purposes." ISIL is another acronym for the Islamic State.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. aircraft took to the air once the Jordanian jet crashed, but the pilot was picked up before any rescue attempt could be launched.

The Jordanian statement described the Islamic State as a "group that does not conceal its terrorist plots, committing many criminal acts from wanton destruction to killing innocent Muslims and non- Muslims in Syria and Iraq. …

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