Soon after Turkish forces shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet, Moscow dispatched military helicopters to search for the Su-24 pilots who had ejected from the burning Su-24. Latest reports claim that a Russian helicopter searching for pilots had also been shot down. According to the Daily Express, the rescue helicopter came under heavy rebel firing in the Latakia province of Syria, which is dominated by the US-backed rebels.
Free Syrian Army shoots down Russian helicopter
The Free Syrian Army, funded and trained by the US and Turkey, claimed that it had shot down a Russian helicopter that was searching for two missing pilots on the Turkmen Mountain. The rebel group said the helicopter was downed by a US-made anti-tank missile. The Free Syrian Army’s usage of these anti-tank missiles has shot up by 800% since Russia launched airstrikes in Syria.
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However, there are also some conflicting reports. According to the International Business Times, the said Russian helicopter had returned to its base “safely.” Earlier Tuesday, Turkish F-16 fighter jets downed a Russian Su-24 aircraft that violated its airspace. However, the Kremlin claimed the aircraft operated in Syrian airspace for the duration of the flight. A Turkish government official said the Russian jet was warned 10 times in five minutes about violating Turkish airspace.
NATO to hold extraordinary session
One of the two pilots that ejected from the doomed aircraft was found dead in Latakia, while Russian and Turkish helicopters were searching for the second one. A new report claims that the second pilot has also been found dead. This is precisely the kind of incident that international security experts had feared since Russia launched airstrikes in Syria to prop up the Bashar Al-Assad regime.
Turkey is a member of NATO, which said it was “closely” following the situation and was in touch with Turkish authorities. Ankara has requested NATO to hold an extraordinary session at 4:30 GMT. Russia described the incident as “very serious,” but said it was too early to draw conclusions. It was the first time in almost six decades that a NATO member has shot down a Soviet or Russian fighter aircraft.