Syrian pilot crashed in Turkey says his plane was shot down

Caroline Mortimer, Samuel Osborne
Ahrar al-Sham released video footage which appeared to show the plane being shot down: Ahrar al-Sham

A Syrian pilot whose plane crashed in Turkey has said his plane was shot down, despite the regime's military saying it had crashed due to technical difficulties.

The Syrian airforce pilot said in an initial statement to Turkish authorities his aircraft was shot down on its way to strike rural areas near Idlib, northern Syria, the state-run Anadolu agency.

He had bailed out as his warplane crashed on Turkish territory was found by a Turkish rescue team and is being treated at a hospital in the Hatay region.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters that the pilot had "a few" broken bones but was not in critical condition.

Asked whether he would be returned to Syria, Mr Canikli said the decision "will be made in the coming days" after the full scope of the pilot's duties and activities had been "clarified".

The 56-year-old pilot said his MIG 23 had taken off from Latakia in Syria.

Ahrar al-Sham released a video claiming to show the plane being shot down with an anti-aircraft gun, but President Bashar al-Assad's military said it crashed due to technical difficulties.

The Islamist alliance, which controls large swathes of Idlib province, claimed it downed the jet using a 23 millimetre machine gun as it was bombing the countryside in the north-west of the province.

The governor of Hatay province, Erdal Ata, said there had been no violation of Turkish airspace and no intervention by Turkish forces.

Syrian helicopters were shot down for violating Turkish airspace in 2013 and 2015, and a Syrian MIG jet was shot down in 2014 for the same violation.

A Russian military plane was similarly shot down by Turkey for violating airspace in 2015, leading to months of tension between Ankara and Moscow.

Additional reporting by AP