Islamic State militants have captured a Jordanian pilot whose plane was shot down in Syria during a combat mission against the extremist group.
The Jordanian army said in a statement Wednesday that it is holding the militants responsible for the pilot's life and safety.
Jordan's Information Minister Mohammad Momani told al-Arabiya TV that a “missile fired from the ground” caused the plane to go down. He added that “efforts to rescue the pilot were unsuccessful.” He stressed that he hoped “intelligence work would succeed in gaining the pilot's release.”
The Jordanian fighter jet was the first coalition plane to be shot down by Islamic State militants. The militants have shot down Syrian government warplanes and helicopters in the past, in addition to Iraqi government helicopters.
The pilot is also the first captive taken from the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against the jihadi group.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria's war with a network of sources, reported earlier that Islamic State forces shot down the plane near Raqqa. The city is the main stronghold for the militants who seized large areas in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq earlier this year.
The Islamic State group had released pictures it said show its fighters holding the pilot. One photograph said to be of the pilot - in a white shirt, naked from the waist down and sopping wet - being surrounded by gunmen. Arab TV channels said that the pilot was pulled out of the Euphrates River after ejecting.
Another picture shows him surrounded by more than a dozen fighters, some of them masked. A photograph of his military identification card was also released.
The photo images were verified by relatives, who said they had been notified by the head of the Jordanian air force, confirming the pilot was First Lieutenant Mu'ath al-Kasaesbeh, aged 26. The army separately confirmed his name.
Islamic State-affiliated social media accounts also published pictures purporting to show remnants of the plane.
Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are all taking part in U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Syria.
U.S. officials said no U.S. aircraft or personnel had been involved in the incident and the cause of the crash was unknown.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged the pilot's Islamic State captors to treat him humanely, his spokesman said.
“He (Ban) calls on his captors to treat the pilot in accordance with international humanitarian law,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Both the Syrian government and a U.S.-led coalition set up to fight Islamic State regularly bomb Islamic State targets in Raqqa province.
According to the Department of Defense, as of December 15, the coalition has conducted 553 airstrikes in Syria.
The DOD said U.S.-led coalition forces had conducted 10 airstrikes in Syria, eight of those near Kobani, and seven in Iraq on Wednesday.
The rights group said airstrikes by Syrian government aircraft killed more than 20 people in Raqqa province Tuesday.
Reports first surfaced in 2012 that Syrian militants had acquired heat-seeking missiles, known as MANPADS, from Libya. It is not clear if the Islamic State gropu has been able to procure other types of surface-to-air missiles from other sources.
James Denselow of the London-based Foreign Policy Center tells VOA that it will be difficult to determine exactly where the missile came from or who sold it to whom, unless video footage appears of the missile being fired.
"This issue as to who is arming whom in that region is boundless,” Denselow said.
“I guess the only point in which it becomes a real issue is if there is footage of the taking down of the aircraft that can then kind of identify the kind of weapons that have been used and that can then narrow down those who have it and those who have possibly sold it. Again, it's difficult because weapons that have been transferred, or sold or given to one group may have been captured by another group. So, it's very murky and I think it's impossible to say at this point,” he added.
Denselow pointed out that the fate of journalists and aid workers taken captive by Islamic State fighters has often been “pretty grim,” so the fate of an “actual bona fide combatant could likely be even worse.”
The Islamic State group “has ripped up the rule book and is writing it, itself,” he added, “so I think it would be unlikely they adhere to rules that they don't believe in.”
Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Some material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.