Opposition group: ISIS militants training to fly warplanes in Syria
(CNN) — ISIS has three warplanes in northern Syria, and former Iraqi military officers are training members of the Sunni Islamist militant group to fly them, a Syrian opposition group said Friday.
The planes are at the Al-Jarrah military airport east of the contested city of Aleppo, the London-based Syrian opposition group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports, citing sources in Syria.
Information on how the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which calls itself the “Islamic State,” may have obtained the planes, or the trainees’ level of familiarity with flight, wasn’t immediately available. CNN hasn’t independently verified the report.
The former Iraqi military officers are among those who have joined ISIS, and people living near the airport have said they recently saw an airplane flying at low altitude after it took off, the observatory said.
ISIS has captured large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, as well as parts of western and northern Iraq, for what it says is its new Islamic caliphate.
This week has seen an increased number of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in the northern Syrian city of Kobani, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Aleppo.
The strikes are helping Kurdish fighters on the ground push back ISIS militants in the Syrian town, according to sources there.
The Pentagon said its increased focus on the area reflected greater opportunity rather than a strategic shift with regards to the importance of helping the Kurds hold Kobani.
“What makes Kobani matter for us from an airstrike perspective is that (ISIS is) there, and that they want it,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.
Meanwhile, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, ISIS militants have tightened their grip over an area about 15 miles south of Falluja, a provincial official said Thursday.
ISIS has brought many of its fighters, armed with heavy weaponry and machinery, in order to attack and control the town of Amiryat al-Falluja, the head of the town’s council, Shaker Mahmoud, said Thursday.
Mahmoud urged the Iraqi government to send military reinforcements to support the security forces inside the town.
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