25 Dec 2014

Islamic State did not shoot down Jordanian plane, US says

A Jordanian jet fighter pilot is taken prisoner by the Islamic State after his plane crashed, but the US dispels claims from the militants they shot it down.

The US said evidence “clearly indicates” that the Islamic State group (IS) did not shoot down a Jordanian fighter jet that crashed in Syria, after it reportedly took part in air strikes against the militant group.

The Jordanian pilot was taken hostage by IS after it crashed on Wednesday, and the militant group published pictures allegedly showing him being held.

The US did not provide further details of the evidence it had, but said it would not tolerate attempts by IS “to misrepresent or exploit this unfortunate aircraft crash for their own purposes”.

The F-16 fighter jet is the first coalition plane to have crashed after air strikes began in August, and IS initially claimed to have brought it down.

The Jordanian army said it holds IS and its supporters “responsible for the safety of the pilot and his life”, in a statement read on state television.

Two relatives of the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Moaz Youssef al-Kasasbeh, said they had been told by the head of the Jordanian air force that the claims of the pilot being taken hostage were accurate.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said it had confirmed reports the plane was brought down near Raqqa, an IS stronghold in north-eastern Syria.

The Syrian government and US-led coalition regularly bomb IS targets in Raqqa province, which borders Turkey.

Air strikes continue

The US-led campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria carried out 10 air strikes in Syria on Wednesday and seven in Iraq, the US military said.

Eight of the strikes in Syria were focused on the contested border town of Kobani near the Turkish border.

Two other strikes hit a crude oil collection point near Dayr az Zawr and an IS weapons stockpile near Raqqa, the Combined Joint Task Force said.

The strikes in Iraq targeted IS units and property in al Qaim, Sinjar, Falluja and Tal Afar.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have all taken part in or supported the strikes against IS targets in Syria, according to US Central Command.