A US warplane shot down a Syrian army jet on Sunday in the southern Raqqa countryside with Washington saying the jet had dropped bombs near U.S. backed forces and Damascus saying the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants, Reuters reports.
A Syrian army statement released on Syrian state television said the plane crashed and the pilot was missing. It said the incident took place on Sunday afternoon near a village called Rasafah.
The “flagrant attack was an attempt to undermine the efforts of the army as the only effective force capable with its allies … in fighting terrorism across its territory”, the Syrian army said.
“This comes at a time when the Syrian army and its allies were making clear advances in fighting the Daesh [Islamic State] terrorist group.”
Later the US Central Command issued a statement saying the Syrian plane was downed “in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces,” identified as fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqah.
It said that “pro-Syrian regime forces” had earlier attacked an SDF held town south of Tabqa and wounded a number of fighters and driving them from the town.
Coalition aircraft in a show of force stopped the initial advance. When a Syrian army SU-22 jet later dropped bombs near the US backed forces, it was immediately shot by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet, the statement said.
Before it downed the plane, the coalition had “contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established “de-confliction line” to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing.”
Meanwhile, Iran fired missiles on Sunday into eastern Syria, aiming at the bases of militant groups it holds responsible for attacks in Tehran which left 18 dead last week, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards launched the mid-range ground-to-ground missiles from western Iran into the Deir al Zour region of eastern Syria, killing a “large number” of terrorists and destroying their equipment and weapons, it said.
The missiles targeted the “headquarters and gathering centers of Takfiri terrorists supporting and building car bombs”, it said.
Reuters could not independently verify the report.
Military leaders and officials in Iran, a predominantly Shi’ite country, often refer to Sunni Muslim radicals as Takfiris.
The Revolutionary Guards are fighting in Syria against militant groups who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.
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