Jordan – Islamic State (IS) militants have captured the pilot of a Jordanian warplane that crashed in northern Syria, Jordan's military has confirmed on the 24 Dec 14. The jihadist group claimed it had shot down the jet with a heat-seeking missile near the city of Raqqa although the military disagree and state that it was a mechanical fault. It published photographs showing the pilot, who has been named as Flight Lieutenant Moaz Youssef al-Kasasbeh. This is the first US-led coalition aircraft to be lost on IS territory since air strikes began in Sep 14. "During a mission on the 24 Dec 14 morning conducted by several Royal Jordanian Air Force planes against hideouts of the IS terrorist organisation in the Raqqa region, one of the planes went down and the pilot was taken hostage," a military source was quoted as saying. "Jordan holds the group and its supporters responsible for the safety of the pilot and his life," the source added. The latest news will raise concern among the coalition nations about the level of armament available to the militants and the defensive measures deployed by coalition jets. The incident may have a bearing on how the rest of the Arab contingent to the coalition sees its operational capacity in the future. IS has been assumed to have a limited air defence capability - based not least on the sorts of shoulder-fired missiles that are rife in the region. IS fighters have downed Iraqi and Syrian government aircraft and helicopters in the past. It is also known that IS has overrun a number of Syrian air defence bases. It is unclear if IS has personnel capable of operating any of these more sophisticated Soviet or Russian-supplied systems. The US-led coalition permanently monitors the nature of the air defence threat and if the Jordanian aircraft was shot down then any potential lessons will be fed into the ongoing air campaign. 361 COMMENT: It was only a matter of time before one the coalition pilots/aircrew was captured by the Islamic State. The interesting thing here would be how they treat a Muslim pilot? It will no doubt be somewhat different to western airmen. This will be a litmus test as to how a captured pilot will be treated and how, if at all, he is handed back. Under the Geneva Conventions he should be repatriated under the terms that he will no longer take part in any further operations. But as the IS is not part of that convention and not likely to be then there is no bargaining chip. It will also be of interest as to how the Jordanian government react to the capture, treatment and future of the airman as well as the coalition. Another option would be a prisoner swap, however, with some of the coalition countries such as the UK and the US not in favour of negotiating with terrorists this could become a sticking point for the coalition. COMMENT ENDS
Saudi Arabia – Saudi security forces have killed four militants in a raid in al-Awamiya in the country's east, officials said on the 20 Dec 14. The interior ministry said the men were behind the killing of a soldier there last Sunday (14 Dec 14). Al-Awmiya lies in the Eastern Province, home to a large and increasingly restive Shia population. The soldier was killed when his unit came under fire from fields near al-Awamiya last Sunday. His colleague was also injured. The "primary suspect" in the shooting of the soldier was among those killed, the interior ministry said.
Yemen – Five bombs have exploded in Sanaa's old quarter, where many supporters of the Shia Muslim Houthi group live, killing at least one person and wounding another, a Yemeni security official reported on the 23 Dec 14. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Houthis have been fighting the Sunni Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) group and allied tribesmen since its fighters captured Sanaa in Sep 14 and forced the resignation of the government. Witnesses said the blasts occurred early in the morning at a time when only a few people were on the streets. One of the explosive devices had been placed close to the home of Ismail Al-Wazir, a law professor at Sanaa University, who had previously been targeted and another had detonated when a policeman attempted to dismantle it.
A suicide bomber killed at least 33 people in central Yemen on 31 Dec 14, Wednesday, when he blew himself up at a cultural centre where students were celebrating Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. Dozens of people were also wounded in the attack in the mainly Sunni but Huthi militia-held city of Ibb. Among the wounded was Ibb governor Yahya al-Aryani, who was attending the Huthis’ commemoration of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. Security sources said another bomb was discovered at the entrance to the event’s venue. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen branch of the jihadist organisation, had pledged to fight the Huthis, who overran the capital Sanaa unopposed in September and have since advanced into other, mainly Sunni districts, including Ibb. AQAP leader Nasser al-Wuhayshi has accused the Huthis of collaborating with the United States and Iran to destroy Sunni Muslims.