US commando raid in Syria fails to rescue Jordanian pilot
US Special Forces are reported by several media outlets to have failed in an attempt or attempts to rescue Muath al-Kasaesbeh who was captured by Islamic State forces after his plane was shot down over Syria.
Kasaesbeh was thought to be held on the outskirts of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria. Yesterday there were stepped up air attacks in the area that may have been an attempt to provide air cover for the operation. The helicopter gunships involved in the mission apparently came under heavy fire causing them to abandon the mission. There have been no casualty figures released and the Pentagon refuses to either confirm or deny the mission even happened. The 26-year old Kasaesbeh is the first foreign military pilot to be captured by IS since the aerial bombardment began in September. IS claims they shot down his jet on December 24
The rescue attempt was apparently about 20 km. east of the city center of Raqqa. Abu Ibrahim al-Raquaoui an anti-IS activist in Raqqa confirmed that two rescue attempts were made. The Daily Mail reports that five coalition aircraft hovered low over Raqqa while more than a dozen raids were carried out on the city's outskirts. While a number of IS buildings were hit at the other end of the city, helicopter gunships tried to deploy Special Forces on the ground in order to rescue the pilot and other hostages.
Photos of the pilot being captured can be found here. An earlier attempt in July to rescue several US and UK hostages failed when IS moved the hostages just hours before the rescue raid. Among those the US attempted to rescue were James Foley who was later beheaded by the IS. The Turkish news agency, Anatolia cites witnesses as saying that "a number of American soldiers were killed in an exchange of gunfire with ISIS gunmen". There is no official confirmation yet of any casualties.
IS-affiliated websites have posted conditions for the release of the Jordanian pilot:
According to these sites, the group is demanding the release of a number of extremist leaders currently incarcerated in the West and in Arab countries. In addition, the organization is conditioning the release of the pilot on Amman’s withdrawal from the anti-ISIS coalition.The Islamic State has made no official announcement of conditions.
An Egyptian TV report has claimed that the pilot had already been executed on the day he was captured. Fellow tribesmen have reportedly contacted their Bedouin counterparts in the Raqqa area to gain their cooperation in negotiations to release the pilot. The pilot's father has also pleaded for his son's release.