Jordan turns to Turkey for pilot rescue

Published December 29th, 2014 - 12:00 GMT

Turkish officials told Turkish daily Hurriyet that the Jordanian government turned to the Turkish embassy in Amman to request its assistance.

The Turkish foreign ministry and Turkey’s security establishment are said to be reviewing the circumstances of the incident in which the Jordanian pilot fell captive to the jihadist group last week.

In September, the Turkish government secured the release of 49 mainly Turkish hostages held by Daesh in a mysterious deal that is reported to have included a prisoner exchange.

Since the Jordanian pilot’s publicized capture, in which gunmen from the group are seen dragging him away following his crash, there has been silence from the extremists about his fate.

Hi family has appealed Daesh for mercy, asking the group to treat him well in captivity as a fellow Muslim.

The pilot’s father, Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh, made a plea while speaking to journalists in the Jordanian capital, Amman last Thursday

“I direct a message to our generous brothers of the Islamic State in Syria: to host my son, the pilot Mu’ath, 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.”

“We are all Muslims,” he added.

Al-Kaseasbeh was carrying out airstrikes against the militants when his warplane crashed near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, Daesh's de facto capital. The group has executed captured Iraqi and Syrian Muslim soldiers in the past — it follows an extremist version of Islam that considers rivals, even some Sunni Muslims, as apostates. Still, the group may want to negotiate a prisoner swap or other concessions from Jordan.

The pilot is the first-known military member to be captured from the international coalition that has been waging a bombing campaign against Daesh for months, trying to break its control over territory stretching across Syria and Iraq.

After the crash, al-Kaseasbeh was pulled by gunmen from a body of water and hustled away, according to photos published by the Raqqa Media Center, which operates in areas under Daesh control. He appeared to be able to walk and the only visible injury was what appeared to be a spot of blood at his mouth.

The capture — and the potential hostage situation — presents a nightmare scenario for Jordan, which vowed to continue its fight against the group that has overrun large parts of Syria and Iraq and beheaded foreign captives and local rivals.

The cause of the plane crash is disputed with the US and Jordan saying it was a malfunction and Daesh saying they shot down his plane.

The US military said Wednesday that evidence “clearly indicates” that the militants did not shoot down al-Kaseasbeh’s F-16.

But the pilot’s uncle told journalists that the family had been told by the Jordanian government that his warplane was downed by a missile.

Speaking at a gathering of the al-Kaseasbeh family and extended tribe in the southern Jordanian town of Karak, Younes al-Kaseasbeh said that the family was told that his nephew was flying at a height of 400 feet on a bombing mission when the militants hit him with a heat-seeking missile and his plane went down in the Euphrates River.

He said three other warplanes in the same sortie had wanted to rescue him, but were wary of striking militants in the area for fear of killing al-Kaseasbeh and so were ordered to return home.

The United States and several Arab allies have been striking Daesh in Syria since September 23, and US and other international warplanes have been waging an air campaign against the extremists in Iraq for even longer. The campaign aims to push back the terrorist 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 airstrikes, with logistical support from Qatar. Jordan in particular has come under heavy criticism from militants for its participation.

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