Turkish military shoots down Russian fighter jet over Syria

LONDON — Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet over Syria Tuesday, saying the Su-24 jet’s pilots violated Turkish airspace and failed to heed multiple warnings to leave.

Russia flatly denied that its warplane had crossed into Turkish airspace.

“We are looking into the circumstances of the crash of the Russian jet. The Ministry of Defense would like to stress that the plane was over the Syrian territory throughout the flight,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The Turkish Defense Ministry was quoted by Reuters as saying the Russian jet was warned 10 times within five minutes to leave Turkish airspace before it was shot down. Turkish officials said the Su-24 was warned as it flew over Yaylidag, in Turkey’s southern Hatay province, and the Ministry of Defense released radar images purportedly showing the Ru-24’s flightpath over the southern tip of Turkey’s Hatay province, which juts down into northern Syria.

The Russian jet crashed down into Syrian territory. Amateur videos showed it plummeting to the earth with flames trailing behind it before it disappeared behind a hill. Two parachutes were seen floating down to the ground, also; evidence that the two pilots from the jet had ejected.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata says unverified video posted by Syrian rebels from the area showed what appeared to be a lifeless Russian crewman. The rebels in the video said he was dead, though it was unclear, if true, whether he died in the initial strike or whether he was killed in crossfire on the ground.

D’Agata said Russian helicopters were then seen flying over the area of the crash in an apparent search and rescue operation for their lost crewmen.

The Su-24 crashed down in part of northwest Syria where Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army and Turkmen rebels hold territory.

Turkey said the plane was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets, but the Russians said ground-based artillery hit the Su-24. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the varying reports.

The shootdown of a Russian jet highlights the tense situation in the skies over Syria, where a growing list of nations — with often divergent interests — are carrying out airstrikes.

Turkey and NATO warned in early October — after Russia said one of its warplanes had crossed into Turkish airspace near the Syrian border by “mistake,” in addition to a couple other infringments by Russian planes — that the infractions were “very serious,” even dangerous.

A senior U.S. defense official told CBS News at that time that the Russian violation did not appear to be accidental, as claimed by Moscow.

The U.S. moved half a dozen more F-15C fighter jets to a base in southern Turkey after the early October incidents, in an effort to shore-up a key NATO ally

The Turkish government has been a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime since the uprising against his family’s decades-long rule first began in 2011. Russia, on the other hand, remains one of Assad’s most valuable allies.
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