Jordan's air force resumes raids against ISIS militants

A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan's King Abdullah II greeting members of the Jordanian Armed Forces in Amman on Feb 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan's King Abdullah II greeting members of the Jordanian Armed Forces in Amman on Feb 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

AMMAN (REUTERS) - Jordanian air force jets bombed the hideouts of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Syria on Thursday, state television said, resuming the intensified raids that it first launched last week in retaliation for the killing of a pilot.

King Abdullah has vowed to avenge the burning to death of pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh by Islamic State and has ordered his commanders to prepare for a bigger military role in the US-led coalition fighting the militants in both Syria and Iraq.

"The airforce has bombed and destroyed selected targets of the Daesh criminal gang this afternoon," it said. "Daesh" is a derogative term for the militants.

The raids are the first the Jordanian military have announced since three straight days of aerial bombing that ended last Saturday.

However, Jordanian military experts say the kingdom may soon struggle to sustain the intensity of air strikes, given the limited supply of F-16 jets at its disposal.

King Abdullah told US lawmakers in Washington last week that Jordan needs precision munitions, aircraft parts and night vision equipment.

Separately, an army source said a squadron of F-16 fighters which arrived earlier this week in Amman from the United Arab Emirates had conducted a second series of sorties on Thursday against ISIS targets.

A Jordanian military source said the kingdom had begun lending crucial logistical and intelligence backing to the Iraqi military as it prepares for a major offensive in coming months to regain control of the northern city of Mosul, which fell to the militants last year.

Another military source ruled out Jordan joining any ground offensive against ISIS, but said the country's elite special forces could have an important role to play.

TRENCH SOLIDARITY

The chief of Jordan's army discussed with top Iraqi commanders in Baghdad on Wednesday ways of "stepping up efforts"against the militants who control large swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq.

"Jordan and Iraq are in the same trench fighting these dangerous criminals and we will defeat them in every place,"said General Mishal al-Zibn.

Despite the air raids and the tough language, many Jordanians fear greater involvement in the could trigger a backlash by hardline militants inside the kingdom.

Jordan, a major US ally in the fight against hardline Islamist groups, hosted US troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

It is home to hundreds of US military trainers bolstering defences at Jordan's borders with Syria and Iraq.