Russia Confirms Its Su-25 Pilot Killed in Syria

A pro-Turkey Syrian fighter stands on a hill separating the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria, on Jan. 28. (AP Photo)
A pro-Turkey Syrian fighter stands on a hill separating the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria, on Jan. 28. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT -- The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that a Russian Su-25 warplane crashed in Syria and that the pilot was killed in fighting on the ground.

The report on the ministry's Zvezda TV said preliminary information indicates the plane was shot down in Idlib province on Saturday by a portable ground-to-air missile.

The report said the pilot ejected before the crash, but then was killed in fighting with "terrorists." It says the area is under the control of al-Qaida's branch in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the Russian pilot is dead. The group previously reported the warplane was shot down on Saturday afternoon near the rebel-held town of Sarqeb, which Syrian troops have been trying to reach under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

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. 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 bearded gunmen standing around a dead man with a bloodied face. 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.

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