Russia Launches Massive Attack After Syrian Rebels Shoot Down Fighter Jet
Putin responds to Russian pilot killed after plane shot down over Syria
Russia has launched a huge offensive in response to the Russian plane that was shot down by Syrian rebels, killing the pilot.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pounded Syria’s Idlib province with more than 100 air strikes in just a few hours after one of its fighter jets was shot down on Saturday.
Thousands of people have fled the area to avoid being caught up in the attacks but at least 21 civilians have been killed, according to the White Helmets, an opposition rescue group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said at least 68 attacks hit Idlib province on Sunday morning, which followed the 35 attacks carried out on Saturday.
It follows the shooting down of a Russian SU-25 fighter jet on Saturday and the subsequent death of the pilot, who was killed when he resisted capture by opening fire on the rebel attackers.
The Russian media quoted an official source confirming that an SU-25 has been shot down - the first to be downed in two years.
A video, which has not been independently verified, circulating on social media of a dead man with a bloodied face as bearded gunmen stand around him, one of them shouts: “He is Russian.”
Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group spearheaded by the former Syrian branch of al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane, saying one of its fighters had scored a direct hit with a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile.
Senior commander Mahmoud Turkomani said in a statement released by the group: "This work is the least we can do to revenge our people.
"Let the criminal invaders know that our skies are not a picnic and they will not pass through without paying a price God willing."
Russia's Defence Ministry said the aircraft was downed by a portable surface-to-air missile.
One of the subsequent attacks launched by Russia killed more than 30 militants in the area where the plane was downed, according to officials in Moscow.
The Syrian opposition also released footage on social media that purported to show the wreckage of the plane and the body of the pilot surrounded by fighters.
Rebels said the downed warplane had taken part in strikes that targeted civilian convoys fleeing along a major Syrian highway from villages that the army and foreign militias had overrun.
Syria's civil war, which is now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes.
The Su-25 is a £7.7million close air support jet designed to support ground troops and was heavily involved in the Soviet war in Afghanistan.