IPANEWS

Turkish-backed militants shoot down second Syrian helicopter in Idlib

Turkish-backed rebels shot down a Syrian military helicopter in the Idlib region, Syria’s state-run news agency SANA reported on Friday.

“One of our military helicopters was hit by an enemy missile in the western countryside of Aleppo…where armed terrorist organizations supported by Turkey are deployed, and this led to the fall of the helicopter and death of its crew,” the agency quoted a military source as saying.

The aircraft was hit by a missile in the western countryside of Aleppo.

A video by Associated Press (AP) showed the helicopter spiraling from the sky and breaking up as fire engulfed it moments before. Two bodies could be seen on the ground.

The number of casualties in the incident was three, a pilot and two others, according to Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu (AA).

However, opposition activists reported that only two crew members were killed.

On Tuesday, the rebel groups downed another regime helicopter near the town of Nairab.

Friday’s rebel attack came a day after Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday that Turkey would use force against rebel groups, which have been backed by it, if they violate a ceasefire agreed between Ankara and Moscow on January 12.

Turkey’s unexpected remarks against the rebels came after Russia accused Turkey of breaching the 2018 Astana agreement under which it is obliged to neutralize rebel militants there.

On Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they had also sent a message to Ankara-backed rebels to refrain from violating the ceasefire in order not to give the Russia-backed Syrian regime an excuse to attack again.

Until the latest remarks, Turkey had backed opposition fighters trying to stop an offensive by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which aim to regain control of the rebel-held Idlib region.

Turkey has deployed around 6,500 soldiers to reinforce existing units in northwest Syria, as well as some 1,900 military vehicles since early February, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Friday.

Following rare military confrontations between the Syrian and Turkish forces in Idlib, 14 Turkish soldiers were killed during the past two weeks.

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