Terrorists belonging to the Islamic State group today captured a Jordanian pilot after his warplane was downed over Syria. The plane was conducting air strikes in the region on Wednesday when it crashed near the northern city of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital. Petra, Jordan’s state news agency, confirmed that the plane belonged to them and that its Jordanian pilot had been captured.
The shooting down of this plane has reignited speculations about how well equipped this terror group is and how they are getting stronger by the day. Concerns are also being raised about the kind of gear they have to combat coalition airstrikes, including those by Canadian CF-18 aircraft. Many Arab and European countries are part of a bombing campaign aimed at pushing them back across most of Syria and Iraq. Jordan, on its part, has vowed not to back out from the air raids on them in wake of today’s incident.
Analysts have long suspected that the ISIS have stocks of the shoulder-fired Russian-made Igla anti-aircraft missiles. The Syrian and Iraqi governments had these missiles in their arsenals and they were used by the Iraqis under Saddam Hussain during the 1991 Gulf War. More recently, militants in Chechnya have used them to down Russian helicopters.
It is not immediately known how the airplane crashed, though the Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani told The Associated Press that they suspected the ISIS to have shot it down.
“It is our expectation that the plane went down because of fire from the ground, but it is difficult to confirm that, with the little information we have,” he said.
If this is indeed the truth, this would be the first instance of a warplane being shot down by the ISIS ever since the U.S.-led coalition began its airstrikes against the group in Syria three months ago.
Raqqa Media Center (RMC) published a photograph of the arrested pilot. He is shown as wearing a white shirt and surrounded by 11 fighters, some of whom were masked. Another photograph published by the group showed the man — naked from the waist down and soaking wet — being captured by three gunmen as he was taken out of what appeared to be a lake.
Another photograph posted by the RMC shows in detail the Jordanian military identity card of the pilot identifying him as Mu’ath Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh who was born on May 29, 1988. One of the arrested pilot’s cousins in his homeland confirmed that were indeed his pictures.