Turkey shoots down Russian warplane near Syria

Major international crisis brewing as Ankara, Moscow trade accusations; one pilot killed by Syrian rebels, another missing.

Contact Editor
Arutz Sheva Staff, | updated: 13:50

Russian warplane (file)
Russian warplane (file)
Reuters

Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane near the Syrian border, Moscow confirmed Tuesday, although it denied that the jet had crossed the border into Turkey from Syria. 

The Turkish army said that the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five minute period and was shot down by two Turkish F-16s. However Russia insisted that the plane was inside Syrian airspace. 

A Russian helicopter was also seriously damaged by fire, but was able to conduct an emergency-landing in regime-held territory.

"Presumably as a result of firing, an Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic," Russian news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying.

"The plane was at an altitude of 6,000 meters. The fate of the pilots is being determined," the statement said. "Throughout its flight the plane remained exclusively over Syrian territory." 

The ministry opined that the plane was shot down from the ground.  Turkish reports said the incident happened in the border area between Turkey's southern Hatay province and an area in northwest Syria populated by the Turkic-speaking Turkmen minority.

Reports said two pilots had ejected from the plane and Turkish television pictures showed two white parachutes descending to the ground.

The CNN-Turk channel said Syrian Turkmen forces fighting the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad captured one pilot.

Turkey's Dogan news agency broadcasted footage of what it said was Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory in an apparent search for the lost pilots.

But a video sent to Reuters in the hour after the crash - apparently of Syrian origin - shows a group of Syrian rebels of unclear origin gathered around the body of one of the pilots, announcing his death and shouting "Allahu Akhbar." 

Several videos circulating online and shared on opposition social media sites purported to show the dead pilot surrounded by rebels from different factions.

Fadi Ahmed, a spokesman for the First Coastal Front rebel group, said "the Russian pilot was killed by gunfire as he fell with his parachute" in the Jabal Turkman area of Latakia province on the coast.

"The 10th Brigade (rebel group) transferred the body of the dead Russian to the local rebel joint operations room," added Omar Jablawi, a media activist working with rebels in the area.

NATO is conducting an emergency meeting over the downed plane, it announced Tuesday afternoon. 

"At the request of Turkey, the North Atlantic Council will hold an extraordinary meeting at (1600 GMT). The aim of this extraordinary NAC is for Turkey to inform Allies about the downing of a Russian airplane," the official told AFP.

The North Atlantic Council consists of ambassadors from the 28 NATO member states.








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