Turkey shoots down Russian warplane near Syria

Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane near the Syrian border, Moscow confirmed Tuesday, although it denied that the jet had crossed the border into Turkey from Syria.

The Turkish army said that the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five minute period and was shot down by two Turkish F-16s. However Russia insisted that the plane was inside Syrian airspace.

“Presumably as a result of firing, an Su-24 plane of the Russian forces crashed in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Russian news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying.

“The plane was at an altitude of 6,000 meters. The fate of the pilots is being determined,” the statement said. “Throughout its flight the plane remained exclusively over Syrian territory.”

The ministry opined that the plane was shot down from the ground.  Turkish reports said the incident happened in the border area between Turkey’s southern Hatay province and an area in northwest Syria populated by the Turkic-speaking Turkmen minority.

Reports said two pilots had ejected from the plane and Turkish television pictures showed two white parachutes descending to the ground.

The CNN-Turk channel said Syrian Turkmen forces fighting the Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad captured one pilot.

Turkey’s Dogan news agency broadcasted footage of what it said was Russian helicopters flying over Syrian territory in an apparent search for the lost pilots.

But a video sent to Reuters in the hour after the crash – apparently of Syrian origin – shows a group of Syrian rebels of unclear origin gathered around one of the injured pilots, announcing his death and shouting “Allahu Akhbar.”

NATO is conducting an emergency meeting over the downed plane, it announced Tuesday afternoon.

“At the request of Turkey, the North Atlantic Council will hold an extraordinary meeting at (1600 GMT). The aim of this extraordinary NAC is for Turkey to inform Allies about the downing of a Russian airplane,” the official told AFP.

The North Atlantic Council consists of ambassadors from the 28 NATO member states.

BREAKING UPDATE: Syrian rebel group claims Russian pilot of shot down plane is dead.

BREAKING UPDATE: Russian warship is currently being repositioned from the Dardanelles, west of Turkey, to the Mediterranean.

BREAKING UPDATE – SYRIA: Second Russian pilot also killed according to Syrian rebel sources.

DEVELOPING: Russian Helicopter searching for downed jet, shot down by Syrian rebels in Latakia province.

BREAKING UPDATE – SYRIA: Emergency landing by Russian helicopter moments ago in Latakia area, all crew members reportedly safe.

BREAKING: Putin: Today’s tragedy will have consequences for Russia-Turkey relations. We always viewed Turkey as our closest friend.

Russia’s State Duma proposes stopping of flights between Russia, Turkey, following today’s jet incident.