Syrian pilot whose plane crashed in Turkey says aircraft shot down en route to Idlib
AA photoA Syrian air force pilot who bailed out as his warplane crashed on Turkish territory told a Turkish rescue team his MiG-23 had been shot down while traveling toward Idlib on March 4, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.
The 56-year-old pilot, Mehmet Sufhan, suffered some fractures to his spine but is not in critical condition, according to medical staff. Sufhan is being treated at a hospital in the southern province of Hatay, a hospital spokeswoman said on March 5.
In an initial statement to Turkish authorities, Sufhan said his aircraft was shot down as it was traveling to an operation near Idlib in northern Syria after taking off from Latakia.
The pilot, who was found around 40 kilometers from the wreckage, was first taken to a gendarmerie base and then to hospital.
Syrian state television quoted an army source on March 4 as saying the air force had lost contact with a fighter jet on a mission near the Turkish border.
It has not yet been confirmed whether the plane was attacked or suffered technical failure.
Combat operations by many militia and government forces come close to Turkey’s long frontier with Syria.
Turkey has been one of the foremost critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supports rebels fighting him in the country’s six-year-old war. It currently has armed forces involved in operations on the Syrian side of the frontier.
Syrian state media said on March 4 its forces had been expanding control over former Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-held villages in northwest Syria, an area close to the province of Hatay where the aircraft crashed.
The army’s gains follow a push to the south and east of the city of al-Bab, which was captured by Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels late in February.