Islamic State militants captured three fighter jets, but didn’t have anyone to fly them. However, a war report on Friday indicates that former Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly. This will be the first time the militant group ISIS, sometimes referred to as ISIL, has taken to the air.
Reuters reports that the group, which has seized land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. ISIS has routinely used weapons captured from Syrian or Iraqi military. However, this is the first time that the group has been seen flying. Previously there were no fighter jet pilots in the group. Abdulrahman says that the training came from former Iraqi solders who have defected to the group.
“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein. People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back.”
The reports come from witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 45 miles south of Turkey.
Officials have known that the group had fighter jets in its possession. However, they appeared unused until recently. Pro-Islamic State Twitter accounts had previously posted pictures of captured jets in other parts of Syria, but the aircraft had appeared unusable. ABC News notes that it is not clear whether or not the fighter jets are equip with any weaponry. It is also not clear whether the jets could be flown long distances. Witnesses said the jets appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 warplanes captured from the Syrian military.
According to the FAS Military Analysis Network, the MiG 21 is capable or reaching around a 400 mile range. The MiG 23 would be capable of reaching 1,116 miles.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces launched an operation on Friday aimed at regaining ground from the Islamic State jihadist group north of the militant-held city of Tikrit, officials said. Security forces backed by air support began “an operation to liberate areas north of the city of Tikrit,” Ali Mussa, an adviser to the governor of Salaheddin province said. The officer said forces were also advancing west of Tikrit, which was seized on June 11 during a sweeping Islamic State-led militant offensive.
It has also been reported by the Inquisitr that the Islamic State militants may be in the possession of chemical weapons.
Do you think that ISIS poses a larger threat to the region now that it possesses fighter jet power and pilots?
[Image Credit: Iraqi News]