Islamist rebels shoot down Syrian warplane, capture pilot: monitor

Islamist rebels shoot down Syrian warplane, capture pilot: monitor

BEIRUT – The Associated Press
Islamist rebels shoot down Syrian warplane, capture pilot: monitor

In this image posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on April 1, 2016, shows fighters from al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, marching toward the northern village of al-Ais in Aleppo province, Syria - AP photo

Syrian insurgents shot down a government warplane in the north of the country April 5 and shelled a predominantly Kurdish neighborhood in the city of Aleppo, killing at least nine people, opposition monitoring groups and state media said.

State TV said the warplane was shot down with a surface-to-air missile while on a reconnaissance mission over the northern province of Aleppo, adding that the pilot ejected and “work is ongoing to rescue him.”

Opposition activists said the warplane was shot down near the village of al-Ais that was captured April 2 by insurgents spearheaded by members of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the pilot was captured by the Nusra Front members, who took him to one of their offices in the area. The Local Coordination Committees said the warplane was a Sukhoi 22.

In Moscow, Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said no Russian warplanes flew over Aleppo on April 5.

Also on the same day, the U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura headed to Moscow ahead of the planned resumption of indirect peace talks between the Russia-backed government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups next week in Geneva, which was announced to start on April 11, as opposed to the initial date of April 9. But regime negotiators will only arrive several days later after the completion of parliamentary elections in the country on April 13. 

De Mistura’s office said he was to meet on April 5 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the next round of the talks.

The so-called “proximity talks” between Assad’s envoys and representatives of the opposition adjourned last month, after nearly two weeks during which de Mistura shuttled between the delegations.

The talks achieved no significant breakthroughs. U.N.-designated terror groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Nusra Front are not involved in the talks or the cease-fire.