“The military aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Hama after it was shot down by terrorists; the pilot was killed,” the Syrian state-run SANA news agency quoted a source as saying. The plane, identified as a L-39 Albatros jet trainer, was shot down by anti-aircraft machine guns belonging to Islamist militants, a source within the Syrian opposition told Al-Masdar News.
It was not immediately clear which militant group was responsible for the attack, but the so-called Free Idlib Army, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army, claimed responsibility on social media. Reuters also reported that Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, had also claimed responsibility.
A video later emerged, purportedly showing the aircraft pilot’s dead body lying in the back of a truck, with blood around his neck. The footage appears to show a body surrounded by a group of armed men, who are described in the Telegram channel Directorate 4 as members of Jaysh al-Nukhba, a militant group based in Idlib and Hama.
A second pilot may also have been in the aircraft, although his fate is still unknown, Reuters reported.
Unconfirmed footage from the scene shows a man firing a rocket-propelled weapon into the sky as machine guns are heard in the background. A bright flash of an explosion is seen high above, and then smoke rises from a spot of land in the distance.
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