Captive Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Arab news media is reporting over the weekend that the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State twice failed to rescue the Jordanian pilot and other hostages that were taken captive by the extremist jihadist group somewhere in Syria.
According to media reports, coalition special forces launched a daring pre-dawn raid on Friday in an attempt to extricate Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, an aviator with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, who is being held by ISIS gunmen in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa.
Al-Kasaesbeh fell into captivity after his fighter jet was hit by a heat-seeking missile ten days ago. He recounted the ordeal in an interview with ISIS’ official newsmagazine Dabiq.
The Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network reported that ISIS fighters unleashed heavy artillery fire at two coalition helicopters that were carrying commando units attempting to land in Raqqa. The helicopters were forced to retreat as a result of the ISIS response.
Meanwhile, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported that witnesses said “a number of American soldiers were killed in an exchange of gunfire with ISIS gunmen.” Thus far there has been no official confirmation of this claim.
ISIS-affiliated web sites have begun posting so-called “ISIS terms for the release of the Jordanian pilot.” According to these sites, the group is demanding the release of a number of extremist leaders currently incarcerated in the West and in Arab countries. In addition, the organization is conditioning the release of the pilot on Amman’s withdrawal from the anti-ISIS coalition.
There is no corroboration of this information, since it should be noted that ISIS has not officially announced terms for the pilot’s release.
An Egyptian television report which claimed that the pilot was executed on the day that he fell into ISIS captivity has also not been independently corroborated.
Kasaesbeh’s fellow tribesmen, who live in the Jordanian district of Karak, have appealed to their Beduin counterparts in the Raqqa region in hopes of gaining their cooperation as intermediaries in a bid to negotiate the pilot’s release.
Kasaesbeh began his training in the King Hussein Military Academy of Aviation in 2006. In 2009, he completed his apprenticeship and joined the Jordanian air force. Before getting married this past summer, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Upon his return, he began participating in aerial strikes against ISIS targets.
In his “interview” with Dabiq, the pilot is referred to as “an infidel.”
“I know that the Islamic State will kill me,” he is quoted as saying.