Syrian rebels claim responsibility for downed jet
A video posted online today by an activist claiming to be from the north-eastern town of Mohassen, in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province, appears to show the downing of a Syrian fighter jet.
Contradictory accounts of the reason behind the crash quickly emerged.
Syrian State TV said the MiG fighter jet crashed while on a “regular training mission” due to technical problems, and that a search party was underway.
The rebels, meanwhile, are claiming to have shot down the jet using anti-aircraft fire.
“It was a Mig-21 brought down by a 14.5 anti-aircraft gun, the biggest in the rebel arsenal. The plane was flying too low and was within range. We have no information whether the pilot survived,” an opposition source working with rebels in the area told Reuters.
Syrian MiGs have been pounding rebel held areas in and around Aleppo over the past month, with the rebels lacking the weaponry to reply. (Kim Sengupta has been reporting from the city for the past week, you can read his dispatches here).
Regardless of whether it was by antiaircraft fire or by other means, the shooting down of the jet will be viewed as a significant development.
Sami Nader, an analyst in Lebanon, told the New York Times that the downing of the warplane was “a military turning point.”
Theodore Karasik, from the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the incident suggested a greater flow of military aid to the rebels.
“If this is true, the conjecture would be that covert aid to the rebels is expanding with higher-grade anti-aircraft capabilities,” he told the Associated Press.
The Independent reported in June that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were sending weapons to the rebels – a development that many predicted could go some way to levelling the playing field.
UPDATE: Rebels say they have captured the pilot of the downed jet.
In another video posted online, a man named in the video as Colonel Mufeed Mohammed Suleiman is shown seated at a table while several rebels surround him.
The colonel says that he suffered minor injuries in the crash, and has been given first aid.
A rebel identified as captain Abu Laith says: “We will treat this prisoner according to what is required of us by our religion, our morals and the protocols in the Geneva Convention related to prisoners of war.”
Twitter: @_RichardHallTagged in: downed jet, MiG, syria, syrian rebels
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter