Regime pilot in hospital after ejection as MiG-21 crashed on Turkish territory on Saturday
An Assad regime pilot who ejected as his MiG-21 warplane crashed near the Turkish-Syrian border said that his jet had been shot down, according to Turkish media.
Colonel Mehmet Sufhan was rescued on Saturday after a nine-hour search in Hatay Province in southeastern Turkey. He has fractures in his spine but is not in critical condition, according to hospital staff.
Sufhan reportedly told Turkish authorities that the MiG-21 was downed while it was en route to bomb opposition areas in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
Pro-rebel activists said that the plane was hit by machine gun fire from the leading faction Ahrar al-Sham, but pro-Assad outlets and some pro-opposition activists said the MiG-21 suffered technical problems.
Syrian State TV, quoting an army source, said only that the air force had lost contact with a fighter jet on a mission near the Turkish border.
Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said Ankara will decide whether to return the pilot “once the situation gains clarity…after it is determined why and how the jet crashed in Turkish territory, how the pilot jumped, and on what duty he was serving”.
Pro-Assad warplanes have been bombing across Syria, including Idlib Province, despite a nominal ceasefire declared by Russia, Turkey, and Iran at the end of December.
Attacks early Sunday killed at least six civilians, including two children, in Kafrnabel in Idlib Province, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
— Kafranbel English (@kafrev) March 5, 2017
TOP PHOTO: Wreckage of a crashed regime MiG-21 jet in southeastern Turkey on Saturday
Video: US Special Forces Assisting Kurdish-Led SDF near Manbij
Footage of US special forces supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in Manbij in Aleppo Province:
In recent weeks, the US has moved in more armor to bolster the SDF — backed by the US since late 2015 to push back the Islamic State in northern Syria — as the Kurdish-led force has faced the advance of a Turkish-rebel offensive.
Russia has also provided assistance, with a deal reportedly struck between the SDF and the Assad regime to secure the villages west of Manbij.