Syrian Pilot Rejects Claims He was in Turkish Airspace

News Brief — March 24, 2014

The moment the Syrian Mig 23 went down. Click to enlarge

The pilot of the Syrian jet shot down by a Turkish missile managed to bail out after his plane was hit and he rejects claims that he had infringed Turkey’s airspace.
According to Iran’s Fars News , the pilot said that he was engaged in a mission against terrorists more than 7 kilometres from Syria’s border with Turkey. After arriving at his target’s location and carrying out his mission, he turned to return to base when his aircraft was hit by a Turkish missile, forcing him to eject.

Speaking from a hospital bed as he recovered from his injuries the pilot vowed to return to those who downed his aircraft.
At the time Syrian forces were engaged in an operation to recapture a border post that was seized last Friday by foreign backed militants. The anti-Assad forces seized the Kasab crossing after reportedly infiltrating from Turkey.
Syrian authorities have rejected claims that aircraft violated Turkish airspace, saying two of its Mig 23 had been engaged in operations against militants in Syria when one was hit by a Turkish missile.
“In another flagrant aggression that proves the involvement of the Turkish government in supporting the armed terrorist groups, the Turkish air defenses have downed a Syrian war jet, which was haunting down terrorist gangs inside the Syrian territories in the border town of Kasab,” the Syrian army said in a statement on Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said initial reports from the area indicated that the plane came down on the Syrian side of the border.
However, for his part Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains defiant. Speaking at an election rally on Sunday night he told supporters:
‘Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard.’
He added: ‘I congratulate the chief of general staff, the armed forces and those honourable pilots… I congratulate our air forces.’
The downing of the Syrian Mig 23 couldn’t have come at a better time for Erdogan’s election campaign; enabling him to stir national pride and jingoism and exploit them to full advantage.
Raising more questions is the fact that a Turkish TV news crew was in the vicinity when the incident occurred.
The Turkish news channel Habertürk was in the middle of a live TV broadcast when a reporter heard the artillery fire over the hills nearby. As the reporter turned, the camera scanned the area and in the background a black cloud of smoke can be seen rising from the Mig 23′s crash site.
Was it a fortuitous coincidence that they were able to capture the event on live TV?
Or had they been tipped off beforehand that something newsworthy and dramatic might happen in the area? Have Turkish authorities conspired to set-up the event, complete with news crews filming live, to help boost Prime Minister Erdogan’s chances of re-election?

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