Russian plane shot down by rebels in Syria

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A Russian plane has been downed and the pilot shot dead after ejecting with a parachute in a rebel-held area near Idlib, northern Syria.

The pilot resisted capture and fired at the militants before being killed, according to monitors in the country.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is dominated by jihadists, have claimed responsibility.

The Russian defence ministry confirmed the downing of an Su-25 and said the pilot was killed in fighting with “terrorists”.

Image:
The wing of a Russian Su-25 shot down in northern Syria

Initial findings suggest the plane was hit by a portable ground-to-air missile.

A video circulating on social media shows the lifeless body of a man, his face stained with blood, as bearded gunmen stand around him.

One of the armed men shouts: “He is Russian.”

The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed.

Russia has fought alongside its Syrian allies and targeted rebels in the area.

A Syrian man stands beside the engine of a shot-down Russian plane
Image:
A Syrian man stands beside the engine of a shot-down Russian plane

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 35 airstrikes on Saraqeb in the north which killed five civilians. Residents said Russian warplanes were responsible.

Meanwhile, eight more Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday during their operation against Kurdish militia in Syria.

The clashes brought the number of Turkish troops killed in operation Olive Branch to 13, since the incursion began on 20 January.

The operation was launched to rid the area of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group.

The Turkish army and allied Ankara-backed Syrian rebel forces are seeking to oust the YPG from its western border stronghold of Afrin.

Syrian government forces walk past an abandoned checkpoint in Abu al-Duhur
Image:
Syrian government forces walk past an abandoned checkpoint in Abu al-Duhur

Meanwhile, seven civilians have been killed in mortar fire on the Turkish side of the border, with Ankara blaming the YPG.

Turkey says major progress has been made in the operation and hundreds of YPG fighters killed so far, although it is not possible to verify these figures.

Government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the operation was going as planned but there was no timetable for how long it would last.

Analysts and monitors say Turkey has so far taken control of limited clumps of territory around the border without getting near to Afrin town.

Turkey says the YPG is an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

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