Russian fighter jet downed in Syria, pilot ejected and killed

A Syrian monitoring group and a Syrian militant say a Russian pilot who ejected from his fighter jet after it was shot down in northwestern Syria was killed after landing alive on the ground.

By: AP

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Russian pilot is dead but had no immediate further details.

A Syrian militant in the area told the Associated Press that the Russian pilot was shot and killed when he resisted capture by opening fire from his pistol on the militants who tried to capture him alive.

Moscow has not confirmed the downing of its plane or the killing of a pilot.

The militant refused to be identified by his real name because was not authorized to speak to the media.

A video circulating on social media shows a dead man with a bloodied face as bearded gunmen stood around him. One of them shouts: “He is Russian.” The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed but it corresponds to events reported by the AP.

The Turkish military says two of its soldiers have been killed in Syria and a third was killed on the Turkish side of the border in an attack by Syrian Kurdish militiamen.

The military says Saturday’s deaths were related to Turkey’s operation against the Syrian Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin, codenamed Olive Branch. One of the soldiers was killed when a Turkish tank was hit in Afrin.

A total of eight Turkish soldiers and at least 24 allied Syrian opposition fighters have died so far in Ankara’s offensive, which started on Jan. 20.

The Turkish operation aims to clear Afrin of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group and an extension of the Kurdish insurgency within its borders.

Ankara also says it is fighting the Islamic State group in the area.

A Turkish presidential spokesman says Turkey will not tolerate the presence of a Syrian Kurdish militia “anywhere” along its southern border, hinting that Ankara might expand its military operation underway in the Syrian enclave of Afrin eastward.

The spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said on Saturday that Turkey’s first demand is to see the YPG move east of the Euphrates River and leave the town of Manbij, where American troops backing the Syrian Kurdish fighters are stationed.

Kalin called on the United States to “disengage” from the YPG and said Turkey will continue communications with “our American allies to avoid any confrontation.”

Turkey shares a 911-kilometer border with Syria. The YPG controls much of the territory along the border and an uninterrupted strip from Manbij to the Iraqi border.