The Pentagon hasn’t yet commented on reports that U.S. Special Forces tried yet failed to rescue the downed Jordanian pilot from the clutches of ISIS on New Year’s Day. From the International Business Times:
Five coalition aircrafts reportedly hovered at low altitude over the city, while more than 12 raids were carried out on the outskirts. Reconnaissance planes were used to help aid the attacks, destroying a number of key IS buildings.
At the other end of the city, two helicopter gunships attempted to deploy special forces on the ground to rescue the hostages. However both gunships quickly came under heavy fire from IS militants in the Rumelia area, northeast Raqqa.
Eyewitnesses said they heard gunshots and helicopter gunships circling in the area.
Faced by heavy gunfire from IS militants, both helicopters were forced to abort their attempted landing. Strong clashes erupted, centring around al-Saqiya Street, where the helicopters had tried to land.
Another attempt was made to land in the countryside of eastern Raqqa between villages in the Alekershi area, and fighting ensued.
After the murder of American journalist James Foley in August, the Obama administration said it had launched a rescue operation earlier in the summer to free U.S. hostages. The White House and Pentagon said the hostages weren’t at the site of the raid. Jordanian forces reportedly helped with that rescue attempt.
Last month, the U.S. tried to rescue photojournalist Luke Somers from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were killed during the raid.
“As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice,” Obama said then.
The new issue of ISIS’ magazine, Dabiq, features what they claim is an interview with the Jordanian pilot captured just before Christmas.
In the magazine, what is claimed to be an interview with Lt. Muath Kasasbeh contradicts CENTCOM’s assertion that ISIS did not shoot the F-16 out of the sky.
On Christmas Eve, ISIS released the ID card of Kasasbeh and paraded parts of his downed plane, as well as images of the pilot in a soaked T-shirt and stripped from the waist down with blood coming from his mouth. U.S. Central Command said in a statement that “evidence clearly indicates that ISIL did not down the aircraft as the terrorist organization is claiming.”
Though the article identifies Kasasbeh by name, it refers to him throughout as “murtadd” — apostate.
The young pilot allegedly told his interviewer that he was sweeping the Raqqa area, capital of the Islamic State, in a party that included Saudi F-15s, Emirati F-16s, and Moroccan F-16s.
“My plane was struck by a heat-seeking missile. I heard and felt its hit. The other Jordanian pilot in the mission – the first lieutenant pilot Saddām Mardīnī – contacted me from a participating jet and told me that I was struck and that fire was coming out of the rear nozzle of my engine. I checked the system display and it indicated that the engine was damaged and burning. The plane began to deviate from its normal flight path, so I ejected. I landed in the Furāt River by parachute and the seat caught on some ground, keeping me fixed, until I was captured by soldiers of the Islamic State,” states the “interview.”
He reportedly told his captors that the flight missions were being coordinated out of U.S. bases in Qatar, where the American pilots enjoyed eating mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, with others in the international team.
“Have you seen videos produced by the Islamic State?” the interviewer asks.
“No, I haven’t,” the pilot reportedly responds.
“We will make sure the jailers provide you with the opportunity to see ‘Although the Disbelievers Dislike It.’ Do you know what the Islamic State will do with you?” the magazine interviewer continues.
“Yes… They will kill me…”