Russian fighter jet shot down in Syria’s Idlib province

Images said to show the wreckage of the Sukhoi-25Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Images said to show the wreckage of the Sukhoi-25

A Russian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet has been shot down in a rebel-held area in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib.

The Russian defence ministry said the pilot had ejected into an area believed to be controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance.

Although he survived the crash he was killed in a ground fight, Moscow said.

The Syrian government, Russia’s ally, launched a major offensive in December against rebel groups in Idlib.

What more do we know of the incident?

The Sukhoi-25, a close-support ground-attack aircraft, was operating over the town of Maasran in Idlib.

There had been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the previous 24 hours, monitoring groups said.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

It is not yet known who shot the plane down or how

Video posted on social media showed the jet being hit and quickly catching fire, before spiralling to the ground.

Video from the ground showed the wreckage with red stars on the wings.

Russia’s defence ministry said: “The pilot had enough time to report that he had ejected in an area controlled by the militants of Jabhat al-Nusra.

“During a battle with terrorists, the pilot was killed.”

Jabhat al-Nusra was rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which merged in 2017 with other groups as the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance.

Other video on social media showed a bloodied body in a uniform.

How are the Russians responding?

The defence ministry said it was making all possible efforts to retrieve the body.

However, a slew of social media posts also reported a salvo of cruise missiles had been fired into Idlib province from Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean.

The Russian defence ministry confirmed only that “a series of high-precision weapons strikes has been delivered on the area”.

Who shot the plane down?

It is not yet clear – no-one has said they carried out the attack.

There are rebel groups in the Idlib area other than Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

As to the weapon used, there is only speculation on social media, although the Russian defence ministry said it was probably “a portable anti-aircraft missile system” also known as a MANPAD, or shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile.

Is this a rare event?

Very. It could be the first time rebels have shot down a Russian fighter jet since Moscow began its Syria campaign in September 2015, although rebels did bring down a helicopter in 2016.

Media captionFootage said to show the downing of a Russian plane by Turkey in 2015

About 45 Russian military personnel have been confirmed dead in Syria, along with an unknown number of contractors.

Here are the air force losses:

What’s going on in Idlib?

It is supposed to be a “de-escalation zone”, as agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, but fighting escalated in November and the Syrian government launched a major offensive there in December.

The main adversary is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

The UN says some 100,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting.

There are 2.65 million people in north-western Syria as a whole, the UN says, and 1.16 million of them are internally displaced people (IDPs).

Russian fighter jet shot down in Syria’s Idlib province

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