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IS FIGHTER JETS THREAT.

BEIRUT: Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said. It was the first time the militant group had taken to the air, it said.

The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured Al Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

US Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.

US-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but, if the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes.

"They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein," Abdulrahman said.

"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," he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 70km south of the Turkish border.

It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:Oct 18, 2014
Words:257
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