A Russian Su-25 jet has crashed in Idlib province in north-western Syria, the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed, adding that it was probably shot down by MANPAD. The pilot ejected but was killed by militants on the ground.
Preliminary data showed the Su-25 plane was downed by a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD), the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The attack took place when the jet was flying over the Idlib de-escalation zone on Saturday. The pilot parachuted down into the area controlled by Al-Nusra terrorist group, the statement said. He was killed during a confrontation with the militants from an unspecified group.
Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria together with Turkey which is also responsible for the Idlib de-escalation zone is now trying to retrieve the body of the Russian pilot, the Defense Ministry confirmed.
Tahrir al-Sham, the extremist group linked to Al-Nusra terrorists, has claimed responsibility for the downing of the Russian aircraft, according to Reuters.
Earlier, another militant group, Jaysh al-Nasr, which claims affiliation to the Free Syrian Army, also posted videos and statements about the Russian plane on its Twitter account. It said the jet was shot down by some air defense systems.
In July 2016, two pilots were killed when a Russian military helicopter was downed by Islamic State militants near Palmyra. They had been attacking advancing terrorists at Damascus’ request when it was shot down.
The Russian air campaign supporting anti-terrorist efforts by Syrian authorities lasted from September 2015 to December 2017. In mid-December, President Vladimir Putin visited the Khmeimim Airbase to announce the withdrawal of most of the Russian troop contingent from the country.
Moscow played a vital role in the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) terrorist group in Syria, as well as other jihadist groups, including Al-Nusra. Around 60,000 fighters were eliminated during the campaign, according to the defense ministry.