Female UAE pilot ‘leads strikes’ on jihadists
A female pilot has led United Arab Emirates (UAE) air strikes that targeted Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) jihadists in Syria.
Major Mariam al-Mansouri, 35, “led the squadron” of UAE fighter jets that participated in raids on Tuesday against the extremists, an Emirati source familiar with the matter said.
The source said a “coalition Western officer was surprised when she called in to refuel from aerial tanker”.
The UAE did not confirm officially that a woman was among the pilots that conducted the raids.
Major Mariam checking a F-16 fighter jet before a sortie.
Major Mansouri is reportedly the UAE’s first female jet fighter pilot.
She graduated from Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa bin Zayed Air College in 2007 and is veteran pilot of F-16 warplanes.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia released photographs on Wednesday of eight airmen it said were involved in Tuesday’s US-led operations.
The Saudi press claimed that one of the pilots was a son of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz.
Major Mansouri’s participation in the raid stirred a debate on social media, with supporters posting her picture on Twitter and commending her service, AFP reported.
“She is taking part in crushing the dens of Daesh,” wrote one woman on Twitter, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Major Mariam al-Mansouri (right) with some of her fellow pilots at an air force base.
But angry Islamist sympathisers denounced what they said was Major Mansouri’s “criminal” act.
In a past interview with Abu Dhabi television, she spoke of equality between men and women.
“Men and women have the right to practice any profession, with dedication and determination... to reach the highest positions possible to serve this homeland,” she said.