Published: Sun, February 04, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Backed Free Syrian Army Group Shoots Down Russian Jet, Kills Pilot

Backed Free Syrian Army Group Shoots Down Russian Jet, Kills Pilot

Al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria downed a Russian fighter jet on Saturday and killed its pilot after he ejected from the plane and landed on the ground in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib.

The Russian defence ministry said the pilot had ejected but was killed in a ground fight.

On Saturday, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed that one of its fighter jets was downed in the de-escalation zone in Idlib province.

Syrians in rebel-held areas say they can distinguish between Russian warplanes and those of the Syrian air force, because the Russian planes fly at higher altitude.

The scenario where a US-backed, US-supplied jihadist group in Syria uses U.S. weapons to shoot down a Russian plane and then murders the pilot on the ground should be seen as a near-nightmare escalation, drawing the USA and Russia terrifyingly closer to direct conflict.

The witness said that a pilot parachuted.

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

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

With the help of Russian forces, the Syrian government has managed to take back much of the country held by rebels.

Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around 12 kilometres from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who attended the meeting, said the United Nations would lead efforts to form the commission.

Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria in September 2015.

In a statement quoted by state news agency SANA, a source in Syria's foreign ministry said the talks in Sochi were "the cornerstone of the political process and solid base upon which dialogue will be launched from now on".

The Idlib Media Center, an anti-government activist group, posted images that purportedly show the plane's wreckage.

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