5 March 2017

Syrian’ warplane crashes near Turkish border

A Syrian military plane crashed in Turkey near its border with Syria, the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu said.

The plane crashed in the Turkish province of Hatay on Saturday, the news agency said, quoting provincial governor Erdal Ata as saying police and medical teams were at the site.

"The plane's cockpit was empty. We believe that the pilots parachuted out," Ata said, adding that a search for them was underway.

On Sunday, Anadolu reported the pilot was found and taken to hospital, adding that he had managed to use his parachute to land safety.

He was found exhausted after a nine-hour search by Turkish security teams and was being given medical care at a local medical centre.

Earlier, inhabitants of the Turkish border village of Samandag said they heard a loud noise at around 6:30pm (1530 GMT) and alerted the police, the Dogan news agency said. 

A Syrian military official, quoted by state television, said "contact was lost with a military aircraft on a reconnaissance mission near the Turkish border".

The Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham told AFP news agency it had shot down a government plane "as it was overflying Idlib province [in northwestern Syria] and carrying out air strikes".

A monitor of the Syrian conflict, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said a plane "which probably belongs to the Syrian regime crashed in Idlib province. The status of the pilot is unknown and there are contradictory reasons for the cause of the crash".

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, quoted by Anadolu, said the cause of the crash was unknown, but he pointed to poor weather conditions at the time.

The Syrian civil war started as a largely unarmed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, but quickly developed into a full-on armed conflict.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, estimated in April 2016 that more than 400,000 Syrians had been killed since thw ar started.

Calculating a precise death toll is difficult, partially owing to the forced disappearances of tens of thousands of Syrians whose fates remain unknown.

Almost 11 million Syrians - half the country's prewar population - have been displaced from their homes.