In a dramatic twist to the already excalating Syrian conflict, Turkey has shot down a Russian military jet from its airspace. Turkey, a country across the Syrian border, claims the Russian Su-24 fighter jet strayed into its airspace from Syria where the Russians have been flying bombing missions against opponents of President Bashar al Assad in the protracted Syrian war. Turkey further claims the plane refused to vacate its air space despite mulitiple warnings to do so.
A member of NATO, the western military alliance set up to counter the old Soviet Union, Turkey’s action comes weeks after first registering several complaints about Russian jets making incursions into its air space.
“In line with the military rules of engagement, the Turkish authorities repeatedly warned an unidentified aircraft that they were 15km or less away from the border. The aircraft didn’t heed the warnings and proceeded to fly over Turkey. The Turkish air forces responded by downing the aircraft,” said a Turkey government official.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia has condemned the action, describing it as a “stab in our back by associates of terrorists.” Russian officials have confirmed that one of the two pilots who ejected from the fighter jet was shot dead by rebel Turkmen in Syria loyal to Turkey while descending on his parachute. The whereabouts of the second pilot is still unknown.
Hours after the dangerous development, NATO held an extraordinary council meeting at Turkey’s request. “We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally,” said Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary-general.