Russia says its warplane downed in Syria, pilot killed
February 3, 2018 | 10:35 PM
by Reuters
The scene shows, what according to Syrian rebels were fires caused by Russian military plane shot down by rebel forces near Idlib, Syria, reportedly on February 3, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media via REUTERS

Moscow: A Russian Su-25 warplane was brought down in Syria's Idlib province on Saturday, and the pilot was killed during "a fight" after ejecting by parachute, the TASS news agency quoted Russia's Defence Ministry as saying.

Syrian rebels said previously on Saturday they had brought down the Russian plane.

Russia's Defence Ministry said that the aircraft was downed by a MANPAD portable surface-to-air missile during a flight around the de-escalation zone in the province. The pilot had reported that he ejected by parachute in the area, controlled by Al Nusra.

"The pilot died in a fight with terrorists," the ministry said.

Russia and Turkey, which is in charge of the Idlib de-escalation zone, are "taking measures" to return the body of the pilot, it added.

A rebel source said the Sukhoi plane was shot down over Khan Al Subl town near the city of Saraqeb, close to a major highway that has come under fierce air attack, where the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias are trying to advance on the ground.

Two rebel sources said the pilot was badly injured after escaping the crash by parachute.

A third rebel source said he was killed.

At least five civilians were killed in the bombing of rebel-held Saraqeb city on Saturday, which residents blamed on Russian jets.

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.

Residents say thousands of people have been forced by air strikes to flee the area, moving further north to the safety of makeshift camps constructed on the Syrian side of the Turkish border.

Russia's Defence Ministry regularly says it targets only hardline extremist militants in Syria.

Syria's civil war, now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.

Since Russia joined the war on the side of the Syrian government in 2015, rebels have lost control of nearly all major population centres, but they still maintain a stronghold in Idlib.

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