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Islamic State captures Jordanian pilot; plane not shot down, says CENTCOM

The F-16 fighter jet is the first lost since the coalition led by the United States began airstrikes against the group.

By
Frances Burns

AMMAN, Jordan, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Islamic State captured a Jordanian pilot Wednesday after his F-16 plane came down over Syria, the group said on Twitter.

The plane was the first to be downed since a U.S.-led coalition began carrying out airstrikes on territory held by IS in Syria and Iraq. Maj. Gen. Fahd al-Kasabeh, a retired member of Jordan's military, identified the pilot as his nephew, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, from photographs posted by ISIS on social media.

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It was originally thought that the plane had been shot down by IS forces, but the U.S. Central Command has explicitly denied this.

"This happened early this morning, and our activists on the ground have confirmed that the pilot is still alive and being held near Raqqa," Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London, told the Washington Post in a telephone interview.

Jordan and a number of other Middle Eastern countries have joined the coalition.

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The circumstances of the pilot's capture were unclear. The official news agency in Jordan said the plane crashed, while Abdulrahman said the F-16 appeared to have been shot down by a surface-to-air weapon, possibly a shoulder-fired missile. Iraqi defense officials say at least three of their helicopters have been downed by similar weapons since October.

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