ISIS in Raqqa
ISIS in RaqqaReuters

It has now emerged that the ISIS militants in Iraq have gotten hold of surface-to-air missiles, prompting fears that they could be used against commercial airlines.

A high-level intelligence team has been ordered by the Pentagon to investigate claims that the Islamic State terrorists now pose a threat to commercial airlines as they possess surface-to-air missiles, The Times reported.

It is believed that hundreds of airlines are still using the air space over the conflicted war zone in Syria and Iraq, even after the Ukraine tragedy where rebels are suspected to have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, carrying 298 people, on 17 July.

The US Federal Aviation Administration had issued a circular last year, stating that it "strongly discourages" US operators from flying to, from or over Syria but many still continue to use the air corrider.

The report stated that the United States was 'urgently investigating' the matter as thousands of passengers use the air route almost on a daily basis.

It is believed that the ISIS militants, who have declared an independent caliphate in Syria and Iraq, may now possess the technology which has the capability to bring down a commercial airline flying at an altitude of over 30,000 ft.

The US Special Forces in Iraq have reportedly been assigned the task to investigate the claims, amidst increasing fear.

"I would like someone to show me that they don't have them, rather than wait to be proved wrong," Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Williams, a former SAS commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Times.

Despite the crisis in Iraq and the neighboring Syria, the air zones have been considered safe by the aviation authorities till now. However, a lot can change if the ISIS, who are known for their brutality, are in possession of the missiles as expected.

According to the Daily Mail, passenger carriers such as British Airways and Qatar Airlines have reportedly been flying directly over Mosul, which is an ISIS stronghold. In fact, the Mosul route is considered a busy air corridor used by many.

Malaysia Airlines came under public scrutiny recently after it re-routed its Kuala Lumpur-London flight over the Syrian airspace, just days after MH17 was shot down by rebels in Ukraine.

The airlines reportedly defended its decision, stating that the air route was an approved route, in accordance with the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation, reported The Mirror