ISIL downs warplane over Syria, claims capture of Jordanian pilot
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
A man walks past a damaged mosque after what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Assad in Raqqa, which is controlled by ISIL. REUTERS PhotoThe Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) on Sept. 24 shot down a warplane from the U.S.-led coalition over northern Syria, a monitoring group said, with the jihadists claiming to have captured a Jordanian pilot.
"We have confirmed reports that ISIL members took a (non-Syrian) Arab pilot prisoner after shooting his plane down with an anti-aircraft missile near Raqqa city," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Jordan's military confirmed a few hours later that one of its pilots was captured by ISIL, official news agency Petra said.
"During a mission Wednesday morning conducted by several Jordanian Air Force planes against hideouts of the ISIL terrorist organisation in the Raqa region, one of the planes went down and the pilot was taken hostage" by ISIL, Petra quoted a source from the military's general staff as saying.
The ISIL branch in Raqqa published photographs on jihadist websites purporting to show its fighters holding the captured pilot, with a caption identifying him as Jordanian.
ISIL released photographs of the captured pilot and showed a military card identifying him as 26-year-old First Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh.
One showed the pilot, wearing only a white shirt, being carried from a body of water by four men. Another showed him on land, surrounded by about a dozen armed men. The jihadists claimed to have shot down the warplane with a heat-seeking missile.
The pilot's father Youssef was quoted by Jordanian news website Saraya as saying the family had been informed by the air force of his capture.
He said he was told the military was "working to save his 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 ISIL," he said, calling for the jihadists to show "mercy and free my son."
Jordan is among a number of countries that have joined the U.S.-led alliance carrying out air strikes against ISIL after the jihadists seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.