BEIRUT, Lebanon — Rebel fighters shot down a Russian plane over Syria’s northwest Idlib province on Saturday and captured and killed its pilot, a monitor said.
“Rebel factions shot down a Sukhoi 25. The Russian pilot came down in a parachute, before being captured,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
He later confirmed the pilot was killed.
“The pilot was killed as he fought Islamist rebels who had shot down his plane and were taking him captive,” he said.
He could not immediately confirm which faction had downed the plane but hardline opposition groups and the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) are active in Idlib.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Syrian troops launched a fierce offensive on Idlib in late December, with backing by Russian warplanes.
“There have been dozens of Russian air strikes in the area over the past 24 hours. This plane was also carrying out raids there,” said Abdel Rahman.
Opposition factions have shot Syrian regime planes in the past, but downing Russian warplanes is much rarer.
In August 2016, a Russian military helicopter was shot down over Syria and all five people on board were killed.
Moscow began conducting air strikes in Syria in September 2015.
Two months later, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane, leading to the worst crisis in ties between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.