Turkmen Forces in Syria Shot Dead Pilots Who Ejected From Downed Russian Jet as Helicopter Also Shot Down

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
November 24, 2015 Updated: November 24, 2015

Turkmen forces in Syria shot the two Russian pilots who ejected from the jet that was shot by Turkey near the border of the two countries, according to a deputy commander.

The jet was shot down near the Syria-Turkey border after the Russian craft violated Turkish airspace, according to Turkey.

Russia disputed the violation and said the jet posed no threat to Turkey, claiming to be targeting ISIS forces in the area. 

“Both of the pilots were retrieved dead. Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air,” Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander in a Syrian Turkmen brigade said near the Syrian village of Yamadi, reported Reuters.

As he spoke, he held up what he said was a piece of a pilot’s parachute. A video circulating online appears to show the militants trying to shoot the pilots after the ejection.

Turkmen are ethnic Turks who have lived in parts of Syria, Iraq, and Iran since the 11th Century, according to the BBC.

They are currently fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after his father, then he, cracked down on them. Over 10,000 Turkmen are currently fighting in Syria. Russia is currently aligned with al-Assad, but also says it’s fighting against ISIS.

The U.S. has criticized Russia, including after this plane incident, for targeting moderate groups as opposed to terrorists.

Pilots Alive?

However, other reports indicate that the pilots may be alive. 

A Turkish official told Reuters that the country believes both pilots are both alive, and they’re working to secure their release.

“Our units, who received the information that the two pilots were alive, are working to get them from opposition rebels safely,” the official said.

A graphic video posted online purportedly shows one of the pilots lying on the ground, surrounded by men praising Allah.

The men reportedly regretted they hadn’t burned him on the spot.

Jahed Ahmad, a representative of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, the rebel group that allegedly attacked the pilots, told the Associated Press that at least one of the pilots was dead upon landing.

A Geneva Convention protocol bans attacking persons parachuting from an aircraft in distress, as long as the persons parachuting aren’t acting in a hostile manner.

Helicopter Downed

A video has also emerged purportedly showing Syrian rebels blowing up a Russian helicopter in Syria.

The helicopter was reportedly being used to search for the pilots.

“The helicopter is on the ground as rebels fire a missile into it,” noted the Daily Beast.

“It is not clear from the video whether the helicopter is, in fact, Russian.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.