ANKARA / BRUSSELS: Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian military plane on the Syrian border, local media reported, citing military sources.
A plane exploded in the air and the fireball fell on a Turkmen mountain on the Syrian side of the border, CNN-Turk and NTV televisions reported. A Turkish government official told AFP: “We are tying to identify the nationality of the plane.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish presidency said the warplane shot down by Turkey was Russian, adding the aircraft had violated Turkish airspace.
“A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated the Turkish air space despite the warnings,” the presidency said.
However, Russia while confirming that the military plane Turkey shot down at the Syrian border was a Sukhoi Su-24 jet clarified that the jet did not enter Turkish space.
“Presumably as a result of firing, an Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying. The ministry said the fate of the pilots was not yet clear.
Rebel and opposition activist sources told AFP that one Russian pilot of a plane downed by Turkey over northern Syria on Tuesday is dead and a second is missing,
The sources said the first pilot was killed by opposition forces who shot at him as he landed after ejecting from the plane.
Several videos circulating online and shared on opposition social media sites purported to show the dead pilot surrounded by rebels from different factions.
Long criticised by its allies for taking too soft a line against militants, Turkey is taking firmer action against the Islamic State on the border with Syria after being shaken by attacks on its soil and the Paris assaults.
Ankara is sealing its border to the militants who moved to and fro across the frontier during much of the four-year civil war in Syria and stepping up raids against Islamic State suspects.
NATO in ‘close contact’ with Turkey after Russian jet downed
NATO is in “close contact” with Ankara and watching developments after key alliance member Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border, an official said Tuesday.
“NATO is monitoring the situation closely. We are in contact with Turkish authorities,” the official told AFP in an email.
He gave no further details and made no comment when asked whether Turkey would seek an emergency NATO meeting, as it did in early October after Russian planes violated its airspace several times.
On that occasion, NATO condemned the Russian incursions and warned of “the extreme danger of such irresponsible behaviour.”
All 28 NATO members pledge a one-for-all, all-for-one response to any military threat if a member invokes what is known as Article Five when it comes under attack.
The only time this has been invoked was by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.