The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has ordered a squadron of F-16 fighter jets to be deployed to Jordan to support the country’s airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), having earlier suspended its involvement.
UAE’s official WAM news agency said on Saturday that Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan (above), deputy head of the country’s armed forces, had ordered the move which has been widely applauded in the Arab world. WAM said the deployment was aimed at supporting Jordan’s military in the fight against “the brutal terrorist organisation” ISIL, without specifying the number of aircraft involved or their role.
A Jordanian official, speaking anonymously to the AP news agency, said that the UAE fighter jets will participate in airstrikes on ISIL targets.
The Reuters news agency, citing a Jordanian army source, also said the UAE’s move would help intensify air strikes on the armed group.
“They will be based in Jordan. This is a big boost and will be helping our brothers shorten their flying distances and intensify strikes against the militants in Jordan,” the anonymous military source said.
Both Jordan and the UAE are members of a US-led military coalition against ISIL.
The UAE hosts air bases used by US and coalition partners.
‘Wherever they are’
Late last year, the UAE suspended its airstrikes against ISIL after a Jordanian pilot crashed over northern Syria and was captured by the fighters, US officials had said, although the UAE never commented on that suspension.
ISIL recently released a video showing them burning the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, to death while he was trapped in a cage. The images angered Jordan and the region. Jordan has pledged harsh retaliation and its jets have carried out daily attacks since Thursday, according to the military and state media.
In comments published on Saturday, Hussein al-Majali, Jordan’s interior minister, told the state-run al-Rai newspaper that his country would go after ISIL fighters “wherever they are”. The most recent airstrikes are “the beginning of a continued process to eliminate them and wipe them out completely,” he said of the fighters who control about a third of neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
The heightened confrontation has raised concerns about possible ISIL attacks in Jordan. The minister said security services have a tight grip and are ready for “anyone who wants to interfere in the security of Jordan”. He went on to urge Jordan to report suspicious behaviour, particularly in neighbourhoods with large numbers of non-Jordanians.
Source: various news agencies