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Amman working to secure safe release of ISIS-held pilot: minister - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, which monitors events in territory controlled by Islamic State militants with the permission of the extremist group, shows militants with a captured pilot, center, wearing a white shirt in Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)

This image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, which monitors events in territory controlled by Islamic State militants with the permission of the extremist group, shows militants with a captured pilot, center, wearing a white shirt in Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center)

Amman, Asharq Al-Awsat—Amman is leaning on its regional and international contacts to secure the release of downed pilot First Lieutenant Muadh Al-Kasasbeh from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Jordanian minister speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said.

The minister, who was not authorized to brief the press about Jordan’s behind-the-scenes efforts to secure Kasasbeh’s safe release, said that “international negotiations” are being led by Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour.

While Jordan’s parliament on Thursday threatened ISIS with “grave consequences” if Kasasbeh is harmed, Amman is working behind the scenes to secure the pilot’s release. Few detainees have ever been successfully released from ISIS custody, with the last major successful example of this being ISIS’s release of 49 captured Turkish diplomats in September. Ankara praised MIT [the Turkish intelligence agency] for securing the release of the diplomats, who had been held by ISIS for three months, but did not reveal the details of the operation, only that the hostages release had been secured without a shot being fired.

However, Turkey is not an official member of the anti-ISIS coalition and has not taken part in military operations against the Islamist group. The Jordanian pilot was carrying out air strikes on ISIS positions on Wednesday when his warplane crashed near the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital. It is unclear whether Kasasbeh’s F-16 was shot down by ISIS or crashed due to mechanical failures, while ISIS has been silent over the pilot’s fate since his capture.

The pilot’s father, Safi Yousef Al-Kasasbeh, called on ISIS not to mistreat his son, describing him as “a guest among brothers of ours in the Islamic State.”

“I direct a message to our generous brothers of ISIS in Syria: to host my son, the pilot Muadh, with generous hospitality. I ask God that their hearts are gathered together with love, and that he is returned to his family, wife and mother,” Safi Yousef Al-Kasasbeh said in comments to Reuters on Thursday, adding that “We are all Muslims.”

First Lieutenant Kasasbeh is the first military member of the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition to be captured by the groups, with fears that ISIS could seek to use him for propaganda purposes or execute him outright. ISIS has previously executed captured Iraqi and Syrian Muslim soldiers in the past, viewing Muslims that are fighting against ISIS as apostates.