DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian air force has destroyed two of three jets seized and reportedly test flown over Aleppo by the Islamic State group last week, according to the country’s information minister.
Omran al-Zoubi told Syrian TV late Tuesday that Syrian aircraft bombed the jets as they were landing at Jarrah airbase in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province. He said the militants were able to hide a third jet, which the Syrian air force is now searching for.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier had reported that IS militants flew three MiG fighter jets over the Jarraj air base with the help of former Iraqi air force pilots who were now members of the militant group. The report could not be independently confirmed, and U.S. officials said they had no reports of the militants flying jets.
The group is known to have seized fighter jets from at least one air base it captured from the Syrian army in Raqqa province earlier this year. Militant websites had posted photos of IS fighters with the warplanes, but it was unclear if they were operational.
Al-Zoubi described the aircraft as old and suggested they were no longer useful as military equipment.
Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Observatory, said Wednesday he had no confirmation that the Syrian air force destroyed any of the jets. The group collects information from a network of activists inside Syria.
Al-Zoubi, in the interview, accused Turkey of using the report about the seized jets to help push for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria. He said Kobani, where Kurdish fighters are defending against an onslaught by Islamic State group fighters, is a Syrian city and that a no-fly zone is a “red line.”
Meanwhile, Kurdish officials and doctors said they believed Islamic State militants had released some kind of toxic gas in a district in the eastern part of Kobani.
Aysa Abdullah, a senior Kurdish official based in the town, said the attack took place late Tuesday, and that a number of people suffered symptoms that included dizziness and watery eyes. She and other officials said doctors in Kobani lacked the necessary equipment to determine the nature of the chemicals used.
The reports could not be independently confirmed. Kurdish officials have made similar claims before.