AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s air force has carried out 56 airstrikes against Islamic State weapons depots and training camps in Syria and Iraq in the days since the extremist group revealed it had burned a Jordanian pilot to death, Jordanian military officials said Sunday.
A top Jordanian air force commander vowed that his country will continue its offensive until the Islamist militants are “wiped off the face of the Earth.”
The small kingdom has been a quiet member of the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State since September, but after a video was released last week of the captured pilot being burned alive in a cage, the Jordanian public has called for blood and King Abdullah II and his military have promised vengeance.
As the Jordanian bombing campaign entered its fourth day Sunday, details of the airstrikes were presented at a rare news briefing at a special operations training center on the outskirts of the capital, Amman.
A principal focus of the three days of strikes has been Islamic State personnel, Jordanian military officials said, asserting that the kingdom’s fighter jets had destroyed 19 locations harboring Islamic State commanders and fighters.
It was unclear whether the Jordanian statement of 56 airstrikes referred to missions flown or specific targets hit. The U.S. Central Command, which provides “air tasking orders” for the coalition, reported a total of 24 “strikes” — meaning targets hit — in Syria from Wednesday through Friday last week, although figures from Saturday had not yet been released.
A “strike” can, however, include a number of buildings in the same place.
The Jordanians want to kill the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said Maj. Gen. Mansour Jabour of the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
“We are hitting them where they eat and sleep,” he said.
Numerous airstrikes took place in and around the Islamic State’s de facto headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa over the weekend, according to accounts posted on Twitter by “Raqqa Is Silently Being Slaughtered,” a clandestine group that monitors the situation inside the city.
The general said that since August, U.S.-led coalition bombing has killed “around 7,000 fighters” from the Islamic State.
That assertion could not be immediately verified. In September, the CIA reported that the Islamic State’s ranks ranged between 20,000 and 31,500 across Iraq and Syria. That was before the formation of the wider coalition that brought additional fighters under the group’s umbrella.
The secondary goal of the airstrikes is “to disrupt and destroy” the Islamic State’s economic and financial sources, according to Jordanian officials, who claim to have successfully “disrupted” the group’s ability to sell black-market oil by destroying 18 key “logistic centers.”
The Jordanian military officials rejected an assertion by the Islamic State that the airstrikes had killed an American hostage, as well as other civilians.
On Friday, the group said that Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old Arizona woman it had taken hostage in Syria, was killed when a Jordanian fighter plane bombed a building where she was being held.
The assertion could not be immediately verified, nor was it clear that Jordanian planes had bombed the location. The Islamic State has not produced her body or other evidence that she was killed in the strike.
“We did not target any civilian homes, we did not cut a single tree, and we did not destroy any home in any residential area or even in the surrounding areas,” Jabour said Sunday.
According to Jabour, Jordanian fighter jets have taken part in 946 of 5,500 bombing runs by the U.S.-led coalition since September, accounting for 17 percent of the coalition’s air power.
The general pledged that Jordan would continue its aerial campaign against the Islamic State, warning, “This is not the end but the beginning.”
“We will continue to fight this war until we have achieved its goal, wiping ISIS from the face of the Earth,” Jabour said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State.
Alongside Jordan and the United States, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been participating in airstrikes, with logistical support from Qatar. According to the State Department, U.S. warplanes have led about 90 percent of the air attacks.
The UAE is expected to resume flights that it suspended after the Jordanian pilot was killed, senior State Department officials said Saturday.
Jordan has intensified its bombing campaign against the Islamic State since the release of the video showing the group burning Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh alive, with Jordan carrying out airstrikes in Iraq for the first time on Friday.
As a tribute to the fallen pilot, Jordanian F-16 jets fresh from bombing runs in Syria and Iraq flew over Kaseasbeh’s funeral tent in the southern city of Karak on Thursday and Friday in a “victory lap.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah has vowed a “relentless war” against the Islamic State, with government officials describing the airstrikes as the beginning of an “earth-shattering response” to the pilot’s killing.
In the wake of the killing, the Islamic State issued a list of the names of Jordanian pilots taking part in the coalition and satellite images of their homes, offering a bounty of 100 gold dinars (about $20,000) each for their killings.
Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency reported that the kingdom received several F-16s from the UAE on Sunday. According to Petra, the fighter jets were accompanied by crews of UAE “pilots and technicians” in addition to a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.
The news agency quoted Col. Saeed Hassan, commander of the UAE air forces in Jordan, as saying that his forces will be “ready to carry out any tasks in coordination with the Jordan Armed Forces.”
Meanwhile, President Obama’s special presidential envoy, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, arrived in Amman late Sunday to meet with Abdullah and senior military officials.
Also Sunday, the Jordanian monarch met with Britain’s Prince Charles, who pledged his country’s support for Jordan’s efforts to tackle terrorism, according to a Royal Court statement carried by Petra.
Booth reported from Jerusalem. Karen DeYoung contributed from Washington.