Islamic State Claims It Shot Down Syrian Air Force Jet, Captured Pilot

Islamic State Claims It Shot Down Syrian Air Force Jet, Captured Pilot

The Islamic State claims to have shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet and captured the pilot alive after he ejected.

The claim was made through the ISIS-aligned Amaq news agency, which says the downed fighter was a Russian-built MiG-23 launched from the al-Dumayr airbase near Damascus, and the pilot was named Azzam Eid. The plane was reportedly shot down near the ISIS-controlled town of Bir al-Qassab.

The UK Daily Mail reports the claim was backed up with “poor-quality video footage” of a “burning aircraft” surrounded by ISIS fighters, who point at the Syrian flag painted on one of the wings.

The Daily Mail notes that ISIS has shot down several Syrian warplanes recently, but the others all managed to land in areas held by Syrian government forces. The notion of a Syrian pilot in the Islamic State’s hands naturally leads to memories of Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, the Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS and burned to death in a cage.

The Syrian government had not confirmed the downing of a fighter jet or capture of a pilot as of Monday afternoon, but CNN reports the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights “at least partially corroborated” the report by Amaq. The Observatory confirmed that a Syrian jet went down in the indicated region, but it did not have any firm information on whether it was shot down or the fate of the crew.

On the other hand, Russian media cited a Syrian military source who claimed the plane “crashed because of a technical fault,” rather than being shot down. This source said the pilot “ejected,” but there was no confirmation of his current status.