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Al-Araby al-Jadeed/AFP

Jordan vows to save pilot, denies plane downed

Safi al-Kasasba has asked IS to treat his son like a "guest". (AFP)

Date of publication: 26 December, 2014

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Coalition strikes on IS targets continue, as Jordanians show their support for captured pilot, whose father asks the Islamic State group to treat him as a 'guest'.
Jordan's military Friday denied claims by the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) to have shot down one of its warplanes that crashed in Syria resulting in the capture of the pilot.

"First indications show that the crash of the Jordanian military plane in the area of the Syrian city of Raqa was not caused by Daesh fire," a military official said using another name for IS.
 
"But since the wreckage of the plane cannot be reached and since its pilot is not present, we cannot at this moment determine the exact cause of the crash," the official said in remarks published on the army's website.
 
     A large majority of Jordanians consider Daesh (IS) to be an enemy.

- Mohammad Abu Rummaneh

Moaz al-Kasasba, a 26-year-old first lieutenant in the Jordanian air force, was captured by IS on Wednesday after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the IS stronghold of Raqqa over northern Syria.
 
The US military has also dismissed the IS claim to have hit the jet with an anti-aircraft missile, saying "evidence clearly suggests that ISIL (IS) did not down the aircraft".
 
Jordan has vowed to make every effort to save Kasasba, whose capture marked a major propaganda victory for the Sunni group.
 
"The Jordanian government... is making all efforts with several crisis cells to free (the pilot)," government daily Al-Rai said Thursday.
 
"We are confident that our brave one will be released... He has not been forgotten."
 
The pilot's father, Safi al-Kasasba, urged IS to show "mercy" and treat his son a "guest".
 
"We consider Moaz a guest in the keep of brothers," Kasasba said, adding that he was praying for his release.
 
Jordan, along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has joined the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against IS after it seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq.
 
Kasasba’s plane went down near the city of Raqqa, which the IS group has used as its de facto capital and where coalition warplanes have carried out regular strikes.
 
The IS group and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the plane was downed by an anti-aircraft missile, raising concerns for other coalition aircraft.
 
But the US military said, "evidence clearly suggests that ISIL did not down the aircraft", using another name for IS, without giving a cause for the "crash".
 
"We strongly condemn the actions of ISIL, which has taken captive the downed pilot," said Central Command chief General Lloyd Austin.
 
"We will 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."
 
Jordan's parliament said it would hold IS "responsible for safeguarding the life" of Kasasba, describing him as a "hero".
 
Online support, controversy
 
IS posted pictures online showing its fighters holding the pilot.
 
One showed a man being carried from a body of water by gunmen. Another showed the same man on land, surrounded by almost a dozen militants.
 
Messages of support for the pilot flooded Facebook and Twitter under the hashtags, ‘We are all Moaz’ or ‘Stay and eagle’.
 
Analyst Mohammad Abu Rummaneh, from the University of Jordan, said he did not expect Amman to reconsider its role in the anti-IS coalition.
 
"A large majority of Jordanians – nearly 90 percent according to polls – consider Daesh (another name for IS) to be an enemy," he said.
 
But political commentator Labib al-Kamhawi said the government would come under pressure to pull out of the coalition "if, God forbid, anything adverse happened to the pilot".
 
Indeed, as reported elsewhere by al-Araby al-Jadeed, the pilot’s capture has also stirred controversy over Jordan’s role in the international coalition, with the hashtag ‘Not our war’ trending and some legislators voicing opposition to Jordan’s participation in the fighting against IS.
 
Jordan’s role “should be limited to securing the country's borders against any attempts at penetration by the IS. Jordan should not fight outside its borders,” one, Khalil Attiya, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
 
Jordanian Salafist leader Mohammed Shalabi also denounced Amman's participation in the coalition, and warned the war on IS would lead to "deaths and injuries". 
 
An activist in Raqqa said IS militants were divided over the pilot's fate, with more extremist foreign fighters wanting him executed and others wanting him kept alive.
 
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for the pilot's captors to treat him "in accordance with international humanitarian laws".
 
Strikes continue
 
Despite the loss of the plane, the coalition carried out more strikes against IS targets, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources for its reports on Syria.
 
On Wednesday, the coalition launched eight strikes against IS positions in Kobane, a town on the border with Turkey.
 
Other strikes hit Bukamal near the Iraqi frontier.
 
The Observatory said at least 44 IS fighters were killed in clashes with Kurdish militia in the northeastern province of Hasakeh and in Kobane.
 
Syria's conflict began in 2011 as a peaceful revolt against President Bashar al-Assad but evolved into a multi-front civil war that saw IS grab large swathes of land.

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