Islamic State Did Not Shoot Down Jordanian F-16 Over Syria; But Militants Capture Jordanian Pilot
In somewhat of a good news story on this Christmas morning here in the states, U.S. officials said that “the evidence clearly states,” that the Islamic State did not shoot down a Jordanian F-16 aircraft over Syria Wednesday morning — though the militants did capture the pilot and are holding him hostage. The Islamic State had claimed in propaganda videos that they had downed the plane with heat-seeking missiles; and, while the U.S. may well have definitive proof to the contrary — the militant group has already scored a publicity and social media coup by displaying the captured pilot naked from the waste down — in videos released on numerous websites yesterday. U.S. officials believe mechanical failure was the likely cause of the downing.
“The Jordanian Air Force flies an older model of the F-16 fighter jet, making it highly likely that a mechanical problem brought it down,” said Christopher Hammer, a defense expert at the Institute for the Study of War. “This is almost certainly a maintenance failure. The air frames are probably 30yrs. old,” he added. “It is highly unlikely that ISIS militants shot down the plane.”
“The U.S. launched aircraft after the crash; but, ISIS militants seized the pilot before a rescue attempt could be made,” a U.S. official told Reuters News Service. The plane and pilot went down near the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, the city that the militants claim is “the seat of the group’s “self-proclaimed caliphate.”
The government of Jordan issued a warning to the Islamic State, stating that it “held the group and those backing it, responsible for the pilot’s safety and well-being. General Lloyd Austin, Commander U.S. Central Command, said “we will support efforts to ensure his safety and recovery; and, will not tolerate the Islamic State’s attempts to misrepresent, or exploit this unfortunate aircraft crash for their own purposes,” Gen. Austin said.