Report: Russians Told Syrians To Shoot Down Turkish Jet, Kill Pilots
Back in June, tensions between Turkey and Syria nearly exploded when Syria shot down a Turkish F-4, resulting in the death of two Turks. Turkey claimed at the time that the jet was over international waters when it was shot down, while the Syrians claimed that it was in Syrian air space. While the incident passed without any further developments, a report from al-Arabiya threatens to stir the pot again, with a Russian twist:
As political tensions mount between neighboring Syria and Turkey, newly-leaked Syrian intelligence documents obtained by Al Arabiya disclose shocking claims shedding light on the dreadful fate of two Turkish Air Force pilots.
Contrary to what was publically claimed, the documents reveal that the pilots survived the crash, but were later executed by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
One highly confidential document was sent directly from the presidential office of President Assad to brigadier Hassan Abdel Rahman (who Al Arabiya’s sources identify as the chief of the Syrian Special Operations Unit) states the following:
“Two Turkish pilots were captured by the Syrian Air Force Intelligence after their jet was shot down in coordination with the Russian naval base in (the Syrian city of) Tartus.”
The file therefore reveals two critical reports. First, the pilots were still alive after the plane had crashed. And second, that Russia held its share of involvement in this secretive mission.
The same document orders the concerned parties to treat both Turkish pilots according to the protocol of war prisoners, as instructed by the president.
It also requests that both men be investigated about Turkey’s role in supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the country’s main armed opposition group.
The report also suggests the possibility of transferring the pilots into the neighboring Lebanese territory, leaving them in the custody of Assad’s ally, Hezbollah.
It gets more interesting from there:
A subsequently leaked file, also sent from the presidential palace and addressed to all heads of units of the Syrian foreign intelligence, reads: “Based on information and guidance from the Russian leadership comes a need to eliminate the two Turkish pilots detained by the Special Operations Unit in a natural way and their bodies need to be returned to the crash site in international waters.”
The document also suggests the Syrian government sends a “menacing” message to the Turkish government, insinuating Syria’s capability of mobilizing Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) on the Turkish borders, notifying Ankara from the danger it might face in case of any hostile move.
The documents are at the link, although they are in Arabic so I don’t imagine that’s going to be very helpful for most of you. It’s also worth noting that al-Arabiya has ties to the Saudi government, which has been backing the anti-Assad rebellion. In any event, this should be relatively easy to confirm I would think. The Turks reported finding the bodies of the pilots about two weeks after the incident. Presumably, if it’s true that they were killed after being shot down and then returned to the ocean near the site of the wreckage, there would be some forensic evidence that would support this.
If this is true, though, it opens an entirely door in the tensions that have been developing between Syria and Turkey since the rebellion began. Until very recently, for example, the Syrian rebels have been operating rather freely out of Turkey, although they’ve since moved their headquarters into Syria itself. Additionally, Syria has been the destination of choice for most of the people fleeing the fighting. As for the Russian involvement, well I’m not sure where to even begin with that one.
H/T: The Atlantic Wire