Syrian military jet downed by militants, pilot killed
“The military aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Hama after it was shot down by terrorists; the pilot was killed,” the Syrian state-run SANA news agency quoted a source as saying. The plane, identified as a L-39 Albatros jet trainer, was shot down by anti-aircraft machine guns belonging to Islamist militants, a source within the Syrian opposition told Al-Masdar News.
It was not immediately clear which militant group was responsible for the attack, but the so-called Free Idlib Army, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army, claimed responsibility on social media and in a statement to Turkish Anadolu news agency. Reuters also reported that Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, had also claimed responsibility.
A video later emerged, purportedly showing the aircraft pilot’s dead body lying in the back of a truck, with blood around his neck. The footage appears to show a body surrounded by a group of armed men, who are described in the Telegram channel Directorate 4 as members of Jaysh al-Nukhba, a militant group based in Idlib and Hama.
The identity of the pilot has not been officially confirmed, but Directorate 4, which monitors rebel activity in Syria, named the slain pilot as Basim Hasan, a native of the city of Homs.
A second pilot may also have been in the aircraft, although his fate is still unknown, Reuters reported.
Unconfirmed footage from the scene shows a man firing a rocket-propelled weapon into the sky as machine guns are heard in the background. A bright flash of an explosion is seen high above, and then smoke rises from a spot of land in the distance.