THE father of a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria pleaded for his son’s release yesterday, reminding militants that his son shared the same faith as them.
So far, there has been silence from the extremists about the fate of their captive, First Lieutenant Muath al-Kaseasbeh, since gunmen from the group dragged him away following his crash on Wednesday morning.
Lt al-Kaseasbeh was carrying out air strikes against the militants when his plane crashed near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, IS’s de facto capital.
The group has executed captured Iraqi and Syrian Muslim soldiers in the past – IS follows an extreme version of Islam that considers rivals, even some Sunni Muslims, as apostates. However, the group may want to negotiate a prisoner swap or other concessions from Jordan.
The pilot’s father, Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh, made his plea while speaking to journalists in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
“I direct a message to our generous brothers of the Islamic State in Syria: to host my son, the pilot Muath, with generous hospitality,” he said. “I ask God that their hearts are gathered together with love, and that he is returned to his family, wife and mother.”
And he added: “We are all Muslims.”
The pilot is the first known military member to be captured from the international coalition that has been waging a bombing campaign against IS for months, trying to break its control over territory stretching across Syria and Iraq.
After the crash, Lt al-Kaseasbeh was pulled by gunmen from what appeared to be a lake and hustled away, according to photos published by the Raqqa Media Centre, which operates in areas under IS control. He appeared to be able to walk and the only visible injury was what looked like a spot of blood on his mouth.
The capture and the potential hostage situation presents a nightmare scenario for Jordan, which has vowed to continue its fight against the group.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known. IS says it shot down the plane with a heat-seeking missile as it was flying near Raqqa – a claim the United States has strenuously denied.
Washington said the plane was instead lost in territory held by the group.
It is the first time an aircraft taking part in the US-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria has been downed since strikes began.
The Americans, along with several Arab allies, have been striking IS in Syria since 23 September, and US and other international war planes have been waging an air campaign against the extremists in Iraq for even longer.
The campaign aims to push back the jihadi organization after it took over much of Iraq and Syria and declared a “caliphate.”
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the Syria air strikes, with logistical support from Qatar. Jordan, in particular, has come under heavy criticism from militants for its participation.
Yesterday the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that government air strikes on another Syrian stronghold of IS had killed more than 21 people – including children.
The organisation said Syrian military aircraft had struck two locations in the northern town of Qabassen, including a market, causing the casualties.
The death toll was likely to rise because people were still digging through the rubble to find bodies. The strike was also reported by another Syrian monitoring group.