Syrian rebels shot down a Russian warplane and killed its pilot on the ground after he ejected from the plane, Russia’s defence ministry and Syrian rebels say.
The Sukhoi Su-25 came down in an area of northern Idlib province that has seen heavy air strikes and fighting on the ground between Syria’s government forces backed by Russia and Iran, and rebel groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile and the pilot reported that he had ejected by parachute.
The ministry said he was then killed on the ground during “a fight with terrorists”.
The Syrian opposition released footage on social media that purported to show the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by fighters.
Tharir al-Sham — a jihadist group spearheaded by the former Syrian branch of Al Qaeda — claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane, saying one of its fighters had scored a direct hit with a shoulder launched anti-aircraft missile.
The area where the plane was shot down is controlled by several different rebel groups including Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Turkish backed forces as well as Tharir al-Sham.
It is unclear which group engaged the pilot on the ground, but sources in Syria said it was FSA fighters.
The Russian Defence Ministry said it was trying to recover the pilot’s body.