Syrian rebels down Russian plane near the country’s northern province, killing its pilot

A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard at a checkpoint from the Syrian town of Azaz on a road leading to Afrin, on February 1, 2018. Clashes raged between Turkish-backed forces as well as Kurdish militia in Syria's Afrin region on January 31, 2018, as wounded civilians fled intense Turkish air strikes. Turkey as well as allied Syrian rebels have pressed on with Operation Olive Branch from the Kurdish-controlled Afrin enclave despite mounting international concern as well as reports of rising civilian casualties.

Ozan Kose | AFP | Getty Images

A Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard at a checkpoint from the Syrian town of Azaz on a road leading to Afrin, on February 1, 2018. Clashes raged between Turkish-backed forces as well as Kurdish militia in Syria’s Afrin region on January 31, 2018, as wounded civilians fled intense Turkish air strikes. Turkey as well as allied Syrian rebels have pressed on with Operation Olive Branch from the Kurdish-controlled Afrin enclave despite mounting international concern as well as reports of rising civilian casualties.

Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane on Saturday as well as killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected coming from the plane, Russia’s defense ministry as well as Syrian rebels said.

The SU-25 came down in an area of Syria’s northern Idlib province which has seen heavy air strikes as well as fighting on the ground between government forces backed by Russia as well as Iran, as well as rebels who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrians opposed to Assad see Russia as an invading force they blame for the deaths of thousands of civilians since Moscow joined the war on the side of the Syrian government in 2015.

The Russian plane was shot down over the town of Khan al-Subl near the city of Saraqeb, close to a major highway where the Syrian army as well as Iranian-backed militias are trying to advance, a rebel source said.

Although the Russian pilot escaped the crash, he was killed by rebels who had tried to capture him, the source said.

Tharir al-Sham, a jihadist group spearheaded by the former Syrian branch of al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane, saying one of its fighters had scored a direct hit using a shoulder launched anti-aircraft missile.

“This kind of work is usually the least we can do to revenge our people. Let the criminal invaders know which our skies are not a picnic as well as they will not pass through without paying a cost God willing,” senior commander Mahmoud Turkomani said in a statement released by the group.

Russia’s Defence Ministry also said which the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile. The pilot reported which he had ejected by parachute, as well as he was later killed on the ground.

“The pilot died in a fight with terrorists,” the idea said.

Tass news agency quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying Moscow retaliated using a strike coming from an undisclosed high-precision weapon which killed more than 30 militants in an area of Idlib province where the plane was downed.

The Syrian opposition released footage on social media which purported to show the wreckage of the plane as well as the body of the pilot surrounded by fighters.

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