BEIRUT — The Islamic State group is test flying, with the help of former Iraqi air force pilots, several fighter jets captured earlier from air bases belonging to the Syrian military, a Syrian activist group said Friday.
The report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Britain could not be independently confirmed, and U.S. official said they had no reports of Islamic State militants flying jets in support of their forces on the ground.
The new development came as the Islamic State group in Iraq pressed its offensive on the strategic city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.: Their advance on the Syrian city of Kobani, however, has stalled as the militants have been forced to retreat on several fronts, shifting the monthlong battle increasingly in favor of the Kurdish fighters defending the city, according to commanders and Kurdish and U.S. officials. Dozens of air strikes this week by the U.S.-led military coalition killed hundreds of Islamic State fighters, allowing Kurdish units to regain territory, said Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command on Friday.
The Observatory said the planes, seen flying over the Jarrah air base in the countryside of Aleppo province in eastern Syria this week, are believed to be MiG-21 and MiG-23 jets. Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Observatory, said the planes have been flying at a low altitude, “apparently to avoid being detected by Syrian military radar in the area.”
He described the flights as a “moral victory” for the Islamic State group, saying “the jets could not fly much further without being knocked down by the (international) coalition.”…