United Arab Emirates jets rejoin airstrikes against Islamic State

Warplanes from the United Arab Emirates rejoin airstrikes against Islamic State targets

The United Arab Emirates resumed airstrikes on Islamic State targets Tuesday as part of the U.S.-led coalition arrayed against the militant group, the official Emirates News Agency said.

A squadron of Emirate F-16s stationed in Jordan launched "a series of airstrikes on targets of the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist organization,” reported the Persian Gulf nation news outlet, using Arabic and English acronyms for Islamic State.

The aircraft returned safely to their base, the official account said.

The report did not elaborate on the location of the strikes, but a statement issued Tuesday by the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force said U.S. and Arab coalition partners had attacked in the eastern Syrian region of Dair Alzour, an Islamic State stronghold.

The reported strikes come after the UAE suspended its participation in the bombing mission in December following the capture of Jordanian pilot Moaz Kasasbeh. The pilot was taken prisoner by militants when his F-16 crashed over northern Syria. Emirati officials were reportedly concerned about inadequate search-and-rescue capabilities for downed air crews.

The captive Jordanian pilot was later burned alive, according to a video released last week by Islamic State.

The gruesome killing of the pilot enraged Jordan and spurred stepped-up Jordanian airstrikes last week on Islamic State targets. Amman has vowed to destroy the militant group, though observers have questioned the ability of Jordan’s relatively small air force to maintain the ramped-up pace.

Last weekend, the UAE announced it would deploy a squadron of F-16s on Jordanian soil in solidarity with Amman.

Meantime, the Pentagon has reportedly moved search-and-rescue aircraft closer to the battlefield.

Islamic State, a breakaway Al Qaeda faction, has seized large tracts of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq. President Obama vowed last year to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the organization.

U.S. aircraft have carried out more than 80% of the strikes conducted on Islamic State targets since August, according to the Pentagon. But the Obama administration views the participation of Arab partners as essential in demonstrating that the bombing campaign has support from regional Arab allies.

Bulos is a special correspondent. L.A. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell contributed to this report.

Follow Patrick J. McDonnell on Twitter at @mcdneville for news out of the Middle East.

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