Turkey says it shot down Syrian helicopter in tense border region

Turkey says it shot down Syrian helicopter in tense border region
Smoke rises from the site where Turkish authorities say a Syrian military helicopter was shot down after it entered Turkish airspace. (Associated Press)

Turkish authorities said Monday that they had shot down a Syrian helicopter that violated the country's airspace, news reports said.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters that Turkish fighter jets fired missiles at the helicopter after it flew slightly more than a mile into Turkey's Hatay province Monday afternoon, ignoring repeated warnings from air defense authorities.


He said he did not have information on the helicopter's crew because the aircraft crashed on the Syrian side of the border, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

It was the latest in a series of incidents along the increasingly tense border between Syria and Turkey, a country that has offered sanctuary to Syrian refugees and rebels fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

There was no immediate comment from Syria.

Syrian opposition activists said the downed aircraft was a fighter jet, not a helicopter.

Ahmad Halabi, an activist from the Syrian border province of Idlib, said the plane had been shelling villages in nearby Latakia province before it was struck and crashed into a mountainside.

Amateur video said to have been recorded just after the crash showed what appeared to be smoldering wreckage, but the type of aircraft wasn't clear.

A resident of nearby Jabal Akrad said he was at home when he heard a loud explosion.

"We went outside and saw the explosion and saw two parachutes ejecting from it," said the man, who asked to be identified by a traditional nickname, Mohammed Abu Hassan.

He took video of the aircraft engulfed in flames as it fell from the sky.

As one of the pilots descended,  "everyone who had a weapon shot at him," Abu Hassan said. "He was dead before he hit the ground."

Abu Hassan said he did not have information on the other pilot.

At least one Syrian rebel group, Liwa al Fateh, said it too shot at the aircraft before it crashed, said Halabi, the activist.

“We don’t know if it was downed by the [rebel] Free Syrian Army or the Turkish military,” he said.


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