AFP
Last updated: 24 April, 2015

IS jihadists ‘down regime aircraft in south Syria’

The Islamic State shot down a regime aircraft near a key military airport in southern Syria Friday, with pro-IS Twitter accounts saying the jihadist group had captured the pilot, a monitor said.

The plane went down east of Khalkhalah airport, the only air base in Sweida province, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria’s war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the fate of any crew members remains unknown, but pro-IS accounts claimed the pilot had been captured.

State television, citing a military official, said a aircraft “crashed due to technical problems while completing a training exercise” near Khalkhalah, and that the search for the pilot was ongoing.

In its first major attack in Sweida, IS tried to storm the airport on April 11, but loyalist forces maintained control of it.

Khalkhalah lies along a major highway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida.

Friday’s incident was not the first time IS has successfully downed a military aircraft.

In February, it shot down a Jordanian warplane conducting air strikes on Syria as part of the international anti-IS coalition. Pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh was captured and subsequently burned alive.

Syria’s conflict has killed over 220,000 people and has displaced more than 11.2 million since it began in March 2011.