ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 jet on the Syrian border, Russian and Turkish authorities confirmed after some initial confusion as to the plane’s nationality.
The fighter jet exploded in the air and the fireball fell on a mountain on the Syrian side of the border, CNN-Turk and NTV televisions reported.
Footage posted by the state-run Anatolia news agency showed plumes of smoke rising behind a mountain a few kilometers from the Turkish border.
Two pilots ejected from the plane, NTV reported, and at least one was captured by Syria rebels, according to Turkish media, who also said Turkish F-16 jets shot down the plane.
The incident came as Russian and Syrian jets are carrying out a heavy bombing campaign against Islamist rebels in northern Syria.
A statement from the Turkish government said, “A Russian Su-24 plane was downed under the rules of engagement because it violated the Turkish air space despite the warnings.”
Without giving further details on the nature of the incident, Turkey said it would take the issue to the United Nations and NATO.
“Necessary initiatives will be taken at NATO, UN and at the level of countries concerned by the foreign ministry upon instructions from Mr. Prime Minister,” a statement from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office said.
Moscow confirmed the warplane was Russian, adding that the jet did not enter Turkish space.
“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.
Russian fighter jets entered Turkish air space in two separate incidents in October, prompting Ankara to summon the Russian ambassador twice to protest both violations.
Turkey and Russia have long been at loggerheads over the Syrian conflict, with Ankara seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad while Moscow does everything to keep him in power.
The Turkish military in October also shot down a Russian-made drone that had entered its air space. But Moscow denied the drone belonged to its forces.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to visit Turkey on Wednesday in a bid to smooth ties and find a joint approach to finding peace in Syria.