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article imageIS militants capture, train to fly Syrian fighter jets

By Greta McClain     Oct 17, 2014 in World
Aleppo - A British aid group reports that Islamic State (IS) militants have captured three fully operational Syrian fighter jets and are being trained on how to pilot them by former Iraqi military pilots.
Officials with the British-backed aid group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), say they have received information from several "reliable" witnesses that militants with Islamic State have captured three Syrian military fighter jets. The militants are allegedly being trained to fly the jets by former Saddam Hussein fighter pilots.
According to a statement issued by SOHR, the planes are believed to be MIG 21 and MIG 23 fighter jets. The training is based out of the al Jarrah airbase on the eastern side of Aleppo.
Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Observatory, said witnesses have observed the planes flying at a low altitude in an effort to avoid detection by Syrian military radar. He went on to tell Reuters:
"They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots....for Saddam Hussein. People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back."
Col Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said the Pentagon was not aware of the flight operations, while General Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, told reporters:
"We don't have any operational reporting of (ISIS) flying jets in support of ISIS activity on the ground and so I cannot confirm that. And to the degree that pilots may have defected and joined the ranks of ISIS, I don't have any information on that either."
The BBC reports that the fighter jets were captured by IS from the Syrian military during operations in Aleppo and Raqqa.
It is unknown at this time if the jets are equipped with missiles.
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