A local activist from Syria has revealed that the Islamic State (Isis) militants have been conducting sorties around the Syrian airspace with fighter planes equipped with missiles.
Abu Mohammed, an activist for underground Syrian media group 'Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently', told IBTimes India that on 6 May, locals had witnessed three fighter planes taking off from the Tabaqa Military Airport in Raqqa.
He confirmed that at least one of the fighter jets was equipped with missiles. Reports claim that a day before Isis fighter planes took off, the militant group cordoned off the airbase and a heavy military presence was seen in the area when the jets were in the air.
The Islamic State militants took over the Syrian military air base in August 2014 and it was claimed that the militant group had captured a MiG-21B jet from the Tabaqa Airbase.
Since then there have been several rumours that Isis may attempt to build an air force. Mohammed, who is part of the underground media activist group that has been working fearlessly to bring out stories of Isis brutalities in the region, claims that the Sunni militant group is now engaged in training Syrians and Iraqis.
If the claims of the Syrian activist are true, then it is a grave situation as Isis may use the experienced fighter pilots to train its militants who, according to the Syrian activist, could even be used for carrying out a 9/11-like attack in Europe.
"In my opinion, fighters are being trained to carry out attacks in Europe similar to the September 11," Mohammed said.
This is, however, not the first time that the claims of an Isis air force have emerged out of Syria. In October, 2014, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had reported that Isis has three Soviet-built Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbed and MiG-23 Flogger fighters that are allegedly being flown by former Iraqi air force pilots, who are also training some Isis fighters.
At that time, a retired US Air Force MiG pilot had told The Daily Beast it would "take months, if not years" for Isis to train a pilot for handling a high-performance aircraft such as the MiG-23.