NEW: The captured F-16 pilot's name is Moaz al-Kasasbeh, his uncle says
NEW: "Jordan holds the terror organization ... responsible," Jordanian source says
The plane was reportedly shot down near the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa
For the first time since an international coalition began striking ISIS, one of its pilots has been shot down and taken captive by the Islamist extremist group.
The captured F-16 pilot is Moaz al-Kasasbeh, a member of Jordan’s military, according to his uncle, retired Jordanian Maj. Gen. Fahd al-Kasabeh.
A source in Jordan’s armed forces said that the pilot was downed carrying out a mission Wednesday around Raqqa, the militant group’s de facto capital in northern Syria, according to Jordan’s official PETRA news agency.
“Jordan holds the terror organization and those who support it responsible for the safety of the pilot and the preservation of his life,” the source said.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported earlier Wednesday that ISIS had shot down an unidentified warplane near Raqqa, a city that has been a chief target in the U.S.-led military coalition’s air campaign.
Photos purported to be of the downed pilot appeared on an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, images that Fahd al-Kasabeh said showed his nephew. The retired general told CNN that he’d asked Maj. Gen. Mansour S. Al Jabour, head of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, to investigate the case and take all necessary actions.
Jordan part of international coalition
The international coalition has been conducting airstrike after airstrike against ISIS in Syria since September, an effort that began weeks after first going after the group in neighboring Iraq. In that period, the coalition has claimed many successful hits that have damaged the militant group.
But this time, it’s the coalition that has taken a hit.
While the United States has been at the head of this coalition, it’s relied on a number of other countries to help militarily as well as to help legitimize the effort internationally.
Many nations have signed up to do so in Iraq, whose government is actively partnering with the coalition to target ISIS. But Syria has been a bit more complicated.
Officials from the United States and elsewhere support moderate forces in Syria’s years-long civil war trying to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, despite the fact they are both fighting against ISIS.
Some Middle Eastern nations, however, have joined the United States in going after ISIS in Syria.
Jordan – which borders Syria, Iraq and Israel, and has a history of working with Washington – has been notable among them.
ISIS’ grisly reputation for atrocities
One big question now becomes what ISIS does with Moaz al-Kasasbeh, now that it has him in captivity. Their track record, unfortunately, speaks for itself.
The beheadings of hostages, including American journalist James Foley, was one of the things that spurred the United States to step up its fight against ISIS.
Those were just some of the many atrocities blamed on the Sunni extremist group, committed during its quest to create a caliphate – which it calls the Islamic State – under its strict form of Sharia law. ISIS has tried to justify its raping and enslaving of women and children, not to mention mass killings of civilians, as part of its campaign to purge “nonbelievers.”
The Jordanian military source cited by PETRA noted ISIS’ past when talking about its capture of the F-16 pilot.
“It is well-known that this organization does not hide their terrorist schemes,” the source said. “And they have carried out many criminal acts of destruction and killing of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims in Syria and Iraq.”
Journalist Hadel Ghaboun reported from Amman, Jordan, and CNN’s Greg Botelho reported and wrote this story from Atlanta. CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.