The death of a Russian fighter pilot on Tuesday was cause for celebration among Syrian rebels who gleefully surrounded his body and posed for a video amid conflicting reports of who is responsible for the pilot’s death.
The video shows about a dozen men surrounding the body of a man in military fatigues, presumed to be the pilot of the Russian jet shot down Tuesday by Turkish forces near the Turkish border with Syria.
“Allahu Akbar (God is great),” shout several men in the video.
“This is a Russian pilot and killer of men, women and children who was killed today after his plane was shot down in Syria,” one Syrian rebel says on the video. Russia has been siding with the Syrian government and attacking rebels in the hills where the plane crashed.
The circumstances of the pilot’s death were unclear Tuesday. A video was released that showed two figures parachuting to the ground from the Russian fighter jet, after the jet was hit by Turkish fire. The Daily Mail reported that local rebels said the pilot was already dead when he reached the ground.
The New York Times, however, reported that one Russian pilot was shot as he parachuted to the ground, and the other was captured by a local militia called the 10th Brigade.
“One of the Russian pilots was shot as he was trying to land,” said Shadi al-Ouwayni, an activist in the region of the crash. “The other was injured and captured.”
Fox News quoted Jahed Ahmad of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, a rebel group, as claiming credit for killing the pilot, who was trying to parachute onto government-held land but was captured by the rebels instead.
“This is the body of a Russian member of the military who was killing Syrian people,” he said. “We have the body and we will see what to do with it.”
Ahmad said his group might exchange the pilot’s body for prisoners held by Syria. He made no mention of the second pilot.
Meanwhile, other media reported that a Russian helicopter sent to recover the pilots may have been downed by Syrian rebels.
h/t: The Daily Mail