When Islamic State militants seized a Syrian airbase along with its fighter jets in late August, it was unclear if the group had any trained pilots to fly the equipment. A new report suggests the group may soon have in its ranks pilots with at least a rudimentary knowledge of the aircraft.
CNN Arabic reported that the Islamic State group announced via a Twitter account believed to be associated with the terror group that it is now forcing abducted Syrian air force pilots to train its jihadist fighters how to fly the planes.
The pilots were captured when the group seized the Tabqa military airbase in Syria’s Raqqa Province, Al Arabiya eported.
When they grabbed the government airbase, Islamic State militants took control of heavy equipment, including at least three MiG fighters, anti-aircraft missiles and tanks, according to Long War Journal, a publication that tracks jihadist groups. It’s unclear if the new equipment could pose a threat to U.S. military aircraft should the Obama administration move to strike Islamic State targets in Syria. U.S. airstrikes have been limited to the group’s positions in Iraq.
The BBC reported that the Tabqa airbase had been the final stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government in Raqqa, which has become dominated by Islamic State fighters.
The group released photos documenting the takeover of the base, Long War Journal reported, including some showing Syrian soldiers being shot from behind as well as one pilot captured alive.