[Thus far, no one is mentioning the links between the U.S. and Al-Nusra, but certainly Russia is considering this aspect as they respond to this killing]
A Russian Su-25 jet has crashed in Idlib province in north-western Syria, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed, adding that it was probably shot down by MANPAD. The pilot ejected but was killed by militants on the ground.
Preliminary data showed the Su-25 plane was downed by a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD), the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The attack took place when the jet was flying over the Idlib de-escalation zone on Saturday. The pilot parachuted down into the area controlled by Al-Nusra terrorist group, the statement said. He was killed during a confrontation with the militants from an unspecified group.
Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria together with Turkey which is also responsible for the Idlib de-escalation zone is now trying to retrieve the body of the Russian pilot, the Defense Ministry confirmed.
In July 2016, two pilots were killed when a Russian military helicopter was downed by Islamic State militants near Palmyra. They had been attacking advancing terrorists at Damascus’ request when it was shot down.
The Russian air campaign supporting anti-terrorist efforts by Syrian authorities lasted from September 2015 to December 2017. In mid-December, President Vladimir Putin visited the Khmeimim Airbase to announce the withdrawal of most of the Russian troop contingent from the country.
Moscow played a vital role in the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) terrorist group in Syria, as well as other jihadist groups, including Al-Nusra. Around 60,000 fighters were eliminated during the campaign, according to the defense ministry.
Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane on Saturday and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected from the plane, Russia’s defense ministry and Syrian rebels said.
The incident took place in an area of Syria’s northern Idlib province that has seen heavy air strikes and fighting on the ground between government forces backed by Russia and Iran, and 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 and 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.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile. The pilot reported that he had ejected by parachute, and he was later killed on the ground.
“The pilot died in a fight with terrorists,” it said.
Tass news agency quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying Moscow retaliated with a strike from an undisclosed high-precision weapon that killed more than 30 militants in an area of Idlib province where the plane was downed.
Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around twelve kilometers from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said.
At least five civilians were killed in Saraqeb city on Saturday, which residents blamed on Russian planes.
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.
Russian military planes have targeted the Al-Nusra-controlled area of Syria’s Idlib province where a Su-25 jet was earlier downed by militants, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
The military conducted “a massive precision weapon strike… on areas controlled by the Al-Nusra [terrorist] group,” the ministry said in a statement.
Moscow confirmed Saturday that a Russian Su-25 jet crashed in Idlib province, probably shot down by a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD). The pilot ejected, but was killed by militants on the ground, the ministry said.