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Albin Szakola

Syria rebels destroy Russian helicopter

The FSA-affiliated First Coastal Division said it targeted the aircraft with a TOW anti-tank guided missile.

A video purports to show rebels destroying a Russian helicopter that had already landed. (YouTube/First Coastal Division)
Russia helicopters. (YouTube/First Coastal Division)

BEIRUT – Rebels have released a video purporting to show them destroying a Russian helicopter in northwestern Syria, hours after Turkey shot down a Russian jet along the Syrian border.

 

The Free Syrian Army-affiliated First Coastal Division—which reportedly receives covert backing from the US Central Intelligence Agency—announced early Tuesday afternoon that it had downed a Russian helicopter with a TOW anti-tank guided missile.

 

Hours later, the rebel group publicized a video showing one of its fighters firing a guided missile toward a helicopter that had already touched down on the ground, destroying the idle aircraft. 

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tracking the conflict in the war-torn country said that the Russian helicopter had landed in an area controlled by regime forces in the northern Latakia countryside.

“The helicopter made a forced landing after it was targeted by rebel factions in northern Latakia countryside,” the monitoring NGO said.

 

It noted that the area the helicopter had been flying over has witnessed fierce clashes between regime forces and opposition factions as well as the Islamist Al-Nusra Front and the Turkestan Islamic Party.

 

Earlier Tuesday, a Russian Su-24 fighter jet was downed along the Syrian-Turkish border after Ankara said it had violated its airspace.

 

"A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated the Turkish airspace despite the warnings," the office of the Turkish presidency announced Tuesday morning. 

 

The Turkish army, in turn, claimed that the Russian warplane had violated the country's airspace 10 times in a five minute span, before it was shot down by Turkish F16 fighter jets.

 

Russia, however, denied Ankara's protests, insisting instead that the Sukhoi fighter jet had been "flying over Syrian territory all the time."

 

The Russia Defense Ministry also initially claimed that the plane appeared to have been downed "due to shelling from the ground," contradicting Turkish reports the jet had been shot down. 

 

Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that two pilots had ejected from the plane after footage showed them parachuting through the sky, but said that their fate remains unknown.

 

A video circulated online purportedly showed opposition fighters surrounding one of the pilots, who lay dead on the ground.

 

Following the release of the video, a spokesperson from the Free Syrian Army-affiliated 10th Coastal Brigade told Associated Press that the two pilots had attempted to land in government controlled areas.

 

He added that one of the pilots was shot dead by the rebels before he landed on the ground, while the fate of the other remains unknown.

A video purports to show rebels destroying a Russian helicopter that had already landed. (YouTube/First Coastal Division)

The helicopter made a forced landing after it was targeted by rebel factions in northern Latakia countryside.