ANKARA: Turkish fighter jets shot down a warplane near the Syrian border after it violated Turkey’s airspace on Tuesday, a Turkish military official said, but the nationality of the downed aircraft was not immediately clear.
Both Russia and its ally, Syria’s government, have carried out strikes in the area. A Syrian military source said the reported downing was being investigated and Russia’s defence ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Turkish F16s warned the jet over the airspace violations before shooting it down, the military official told Reuters.
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.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the warplane crashed in a mountainous area in the northern countryside of Latakia province and it was not immediately clear whether it was an aircraft from the Russian or Syrian air force.
The fate of the crew was unknown, the Observatory said, adding that there had been aerial bombardment in the area earlier, where pro-government forces have been battling insurgents on the ground.
Turkey called this week for a U.N. 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.