Dozens of Jordanian fighter jets bombed Islamic State training centers and weapons storage sites Thursday, intensifying attacks after the fighters burned to death a captured Jordanian pilot. As part of the new campaign, Jordan is also attacking targets in Iraq, said Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Up to now, Jordan had struck IS targets in Syria, but not Iraq, as part of a U.S.-led military coalition.
“We said we are going to take this all the way, we are going to go after them wherever they are and we’re doing that,” Judeh told media.
Asked if Jordan was now carrying out attacks in both countries, he said:
“That’s right. Today more Syria than Iraq, but like I said it’s an ongoing effort.”
“They’re in Iraq and they are in Syria and therefore you have to target them wherever they are,” he added.
The militant group controls about one-third of each Syria and Iraq, both neighbors of Jordan. In September, Jordan joined the U.S.-led military alliance that has been carrying out air strikes against the militants.
The Jordanian military said dozens of fighter jets were involved in Thursday’s strikes on training centers and weapons storage sites.
State TV showed footage of the attacks, including fighter jets taking off from an air base and bombs setting of large balls of fire and smoke after impact. It showed Jordanian troops scribble messages in chalk on the missiles. “For you, the enemies of Islam,” read one message.
The military’s statement, read on state TV, was entitled, “This is the beginning and you will get to know the Jordanians” – an apparent warning to IS. It said the strikes will continue “until we eliminate them.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah II was paying a condolence visit to the family of the pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, in southern Jordan when the fighter jets roared overhead.
The king pointed upward, toward the planes, as he sat next to the pilot’s father, Safi al-Kaseasbeh.
Al-Kaseasbeh told the assembled mourners that the planes had returned from strikes over Raqqa, the de facto capital of the militants’ self-declared caliphate. His son had been captured near Raqqa when his F-16 fighter plane went down in December.
Earlier this week, Islamic State displayed the video of the killing of the pilot on outdoor screens in Raqqa, to chants of “God is Great” from some in the audience, according to another video posted by the group.
Also Thursday, Jordan released an influential jihadi cleric, Abu Mohammed al-Maqdesi, who was detained in October after speaking out against Jordan’s participation in the anti-IS coalition, according to his lawyer, Moussa al-Abdallat.
Jordan’s Islamic militants are split between supporters of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, the branch of al-Qaida in Syria. Last year, al-Maqdesi had criticized Islamic State for attacking fellow Muslims. However, after Jordan joined the military coalition, he called on his website for Muslim unity against a “crusader war,” a reference to coalition airstrikes. SAPA