Tuesday 24 November 2015

TURKEY: Russian Warplane Shot Down On The Turkey-Syria Border

Turkish fighter jets have shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border after it allegedly violated Turkey's airspace, sparking a spat over who was in the wrong.

Video footage showed a warplane on fire before crashing on a hill and two crew members parachuting.

Syrian rebels said one pilot was dead, and provided a video showing the man immobile and badly wounded.

An official from the rebel group said the man was dead, but did not mention the second pilot who was in the plane.

On the video, a voice is heard saying "a Russian pilot", as a group of men gather around him. "God is great," a voice is heard saying.

Turkey's own F-16 jets warned the Russian jet five times in 10 minutes over the airspace violations before shooting it down.

Turkey was unaware of the nationality of the plane when it was shot down, its military said.

"On November 24, 2015 at around 9.20 am (8.20pm NZ time), a plane whose nationality is not known violated the Turkish airspace despite several warnings (10 times within five minutes) in the area of Yayladagi, Hatary," the military said in a statement.

"Two F-16 planes on aerial patrol duty in the area intervened against the plane in question in accordance with the rules of engagement at 9.24am."

Russia insisted that the jet did not violate the Turkish airspace.

"We are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet," Russia's Defence Ministry said.

"The Ministry of Defence would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight."

A Kremlin spokesman said it was a "very serious incident" but that it was too early to draw conclusions.

Russia initially said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire while on a bombing mission in Syria.

It said the pilots parachuted but Russia's military had had no further contact with them.

Turkey's private Dogan news agency said two Russian helicopters, flying low over the Turkmen Bayirbucak region, searched for the two pilots.

Footage from private broadcaster Haberturk TV showed a warplane going down in flames in a woodland area, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it.

The plane went down in area known by Turks as "Turkmen Mountain" in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Haberturk said.

Separate footage from Turkey's Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed.

One of the pilots is reportedly in the hands of Turkmen forces in Syria who were searching for the other pilot.

Russia has repeatedly carried out air strikes in Syria in defence of President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey called this week for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens in neighbouring Syria, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the bombing of their villages.

Ankara has traditionally expressed solidarity with Syrian Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has spoken with the chief of military staff and the foreign minister about the developments on the Syrian border, the prime minister's office said in a statement, without mentioning the downed jet.

He has ordered the foreign ministry to consult with NATO, the United Nations and related countries on the latest developments, his office said.

It was the first time a NATO member's armed forces had downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s and Russian and Turkish markets fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies.

About 1,700 people have fled the mountainous Syrian area to the Turkish border as a result of fighting in the last three days, a Turkish official said on Monday.

Russian jets have bombed the area in support of ground operations by Syrian government forces.

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