(AP) ISTANBUL — Turkish officials said that an aircraft believed to belong to the Syrian military crashed near the Turkey-Syria border Saturday, with the Syrian opposition claiming to Turkish media they were responsible for shooting the plane down.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that “we have information that a MIG model plane belonging to the Syrian regime” had crashed near the town of Samandag in Hatay province.
Hatay governor Erdal Ata told state-run Anadolu news agency that rescue teams had arrived at the wreckage and reported that the cockpit was empty, confirming earlier reports by local villagers who claimed to have observed the pilots ejecting.
Ata added that there had been no airspace violation and no intervention by Turkish forces.
Syrian helicopters were shot down for violating Turkish airspace in 2013 and 2015, and a Syrian MIG jet was shot down in 2014 for the same violation. A Russian military plane was similarly shot down by Turkey for violating airspace in 2015, leading to months of tension between Ankara and Moscow.
Syrian opposition military group Ahrar al-Sham claimed it shot down the plane Saturday. The group’s spokesman, Ahmed Karali, told Anadolu that it was shot down by a 23 millimeter anti-aircraft gun as it was bombing the countryside in the northwestern Syrian town of Idlib.
Turkish media said earlier that local villagers had called authorities to report the crash at around 6:30 p.m. (1530 GMT).