Rebels Down Russian Warplane in Northwest Syria, Kill Pilot

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Wreckage of the Russian Su-25 warplane downed in Idlib Province, February 3, 2018

Rebels in northwest Syria shot down a Russian warplane on Saturday and killed the pilot on the ground after his ejected from the jet.

The Su-25 jet was downed in Idlib Province, where Russia has been carrying out intensive bombing, killing scores of civilians, as pro-Assad forces advance in the southeast of the area.

The warplane crashed near Saraqeb, which was targeted by more than 100 strikes last week. The town is close to the Aleppo-to-Damascus M5 highway and 15 km (9 miles) from the frontline with the pro-Assad force.

Rebels said the Su-25 had taken part in strikes that targeted civilian convoys fleeing along the M5. A witness and two rebel sources said seven civilians were killed and scores injured by Russian attacks.

Video showed the body of the pilot. He was bruised and bloodied but not, as some claims on social media said, burned. A document identified him as Major Roman Fillipov Nikolayevich.

The rebel faction Jaish al-Nasr claimed the downing of the jet, although the hardline Islamist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham jumped in to claim responsibility later in the day.

The moment the Su-25 was hit:

Stung by the downing, the Russian Defense Ministry put out a series of claims. It maintained that a foreign power had supplied the armament used to strike the warplane, and said that it had retaliated with missiles, killing 30 rebels. The assault include Kalibr missiles fired by the Russian navy from the Mediterranean.

Russia also carried out overnight attacks, reportedly including cluster bombs, on villages near the crash site. Video of attacks on Maasaran:

The attacks continued Sunday morning, with observers counting 68 strikes. White Helmets rescuers said at least 21 civilians have been killed, including at least 14 in a single village:

The US State Department rejected Moscow’s assertions. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said:

The United States has never provided MANPAD [portable shoulder-fired] missiles to any group in Syria, and we are deeply concerned that such weapons are being used. The solution to the violence is a return to the Geneva process as soon as possible and we call on Russia to live up to its commitments in that regards.

RUSSIA SU-25 JET DOWNED 2

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