Jordan: Approximately 7,000 IS members killed in strikes
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Jordan: Approximately 7,000 IS members killed in strikes

Amman expands air campaign against jihadists, strikes 56 targets after murder of pilot

In this image made from undated video provided by Jordanian military via Jordan TV, explosions go off as the military carries out airstrikes at an undisclosed location in Syria against the Islamic State. (AP/Jordanian military via Jordan TV)
In this image made from undated video provided by Jordanian military via Jordan TV, explosions go off as the military carries out airstrikes at an undisclosed location in Syria against the Islamic State. (AP/Jordanian military via Jordan TV)

Approximately 7,000 Islamic State group fighters have been killed since Jordan began participating in coalition airstrikes, the country’s air force chief claimed on Sunday.

The Hashemite Kingdom has launched airstrikes against Islamic State group weapons depots, training centers and military barracks since militants released a video of them burning a Jordanian pilot to death.

Jordanian officials have said they would retaliate harshly for the slaying of the pilot, Lt. Muaz Kasasbeh, who was set ablaze while trapped in a cage.

Since Thursday, the Jordanian air force has attacked and destroyed 56 Islamic State targets, the air force chief, General Mansour al-Jabour, told reporters. This includes 19 targets on the first day, 18 on the second and 19 on the third, he said.

“We achieved what we were looking for: revenge for Muaz,” the general said. “And this is not the end. This is the beginning.”

This still image made from a video released by Islamic State group militants and posted on the website of the SITE Intelligence Group on February 3, 2015, purportedly shows Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh standing in a cage just before being burned to death by his captors. (photo credit: AP/SITE Intelligence Group)
This still image made from a video released by Islamic State group militants and posted on the website of the SITE Intelligence Group on February 3, 2015, purportedly shows Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh standing in a cage just before being burned to death by his captors. (photo credit: AP/SITE Intelligence Group)

In recent days, Jordanian officials have delivered tough warnings to Islamic State, saying the retaliation campaign would not stop until the group has been destroyed.

The United States and several Arab allies, including Jordan, have been striking the Islamic State group in Syria since September 23, while warplanes from the US and other countries have been waging an air campaign against the extremists in Iraq for even longer. The campaign aims to push back the jihadist organization after it took large parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a “caliphate.”

Al-Jabour said coalition planes have flown 5,500 sorties since the beginning of the air campaign, including 2,000 reconnaissance flights. He did not say whether this included flights over both Syria and Iraq. He said Jordan’s air force participated in 946 sorties.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been participating in the Syria airstrikes, with logistical support from Qatar.

US officials have said that the UAE suspended airstrikes after the capture of the Jordanian pilot. The UAE announced Saturday it was sending a squadron of F-16 fighters to Jordan.

The Emiratis did not say what role the planes would play. A Jordanian official said they would participate in airstrikes.

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