Iraqi pilots who have joined Isis in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war claimed yesterday – but the US has poured cold water on the suggestion.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Isis has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo.
“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for Saddam Hussein,” Mr Abdulrahman said. “People saw the flights. They went up many times from the airport,” he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province. It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry.
However, US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said: “We’re not aware of [Isis] conducting any flight operations in Syria or elsewhere. We continue to keep a close eye on [Isis] activity in Syria and Iraq and will continue to conduct strikes.”
General Lloyd Austin, head of the US military’s Central Command, said he had “no information” that Iraqi pilots had joined Isis.
Pro-Isis Twitter accounts had previously posted pictures of captured jets in other parts of Syria, but the aircraft had appeared unusable, according to analysts.