IS captures Jordanian pilot after plane downed over Syria

IS captures Jordanian pilot after plane downed over Syria
A still image released by the Islamic State group's branch in Raqa on jihadist websites on December 24, 2014 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot (C) captured by IS group's fighters after they shot down a warplane from the US-led coalition with an anti-aircraft missile near Raqa city.

BEIRUT - The Islamic State group captured a Jordanian pilot Wednesday after his warplane from the US-led coalition was reportedly shot down while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria.

A senior Jordanian military official confirmed to the Petra news agency that "the pilot was taken hostage by the IS terrorist organisation" in Syria's Raqa region, a militant stronghold, early on Wednesday.

Jordan did not say why the plane crashed, but both the jihadists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said it was shot with an anti-aircraft missile.

It was the first coalition warplane lost since air strikes on IS began in Syria in September.

Coalition warplanes have carried out regular strikes around Raqa, which IS has used as the headquarters for its self-declared "caliphate" after seizing control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.

The IS branch in Raqa published photographs on jihadist websites purporting to show its fighters holding the captured pilot.

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 almost a dozen armed men.

A photograph was also released of the pilot's military identification card, showing his name as Maaz al-Kassasbeh, his birth date as May 29, 1988, and his rank of first lieutenant.

The jihadists claimed to have shot down the warplane with a heat-seeking missile.

Images distributed by IS supporters of the alleged aftermath of the crash appeared to show the distinctive canopy of an F-16 fighter jet.

Experts said the missile used might have been taken from Syrian rebels or from among weapons captured from Syrian and Iraqi troops.

Eliot Higgins, who posts detailed analyses of weapons in Syria and other conflicts on his blog, said IS is known to have several kinds of anti-aircraft weapons including Chinese-made and Soviet-era missiles.

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