Amman, Fenb 5: Dozens of Jordanian fighter jets bombed Islamic State targets today, including training centers and weapons storage sites, the military said, pledging to keep up the attacks until the militants are defeated. Jordan has said it would respond harshly to the killing of a captive Jordanian fighter pilot by the militants.
Video released earlier this week showed the pilot being burned to death in a cage, setting off a wave of anger in Jordan and the region. State TV showed footage of today's strikes, including one that set off a large ball of fire after impact. It showed two pilots scribbling messages in chalk on the missiles.
"For you, the enemies of Islam," read one message. The military said all targets were destroyed. The announcement did not say whether the strikes where carried out against Islamic State positions in Syria or Iraq. The IS militants control about one-third of each country. Jordan joined the US-led military alliance against the Islamic State group in September, but up to now is believed to have only bombed sites in Syria.
The 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 militants.
Also today, 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 criticised Islamic State militants 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.