Syrian pilot captured after rebels down plane

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The pilot is alive and is being treated for his injuries, the rebel group says

A Syrian government forces' MiG-23 fighter-bomber drops a payload during a reported air strike in the rebel-held area of Qabun, east of Damascus, 6 May 2017 (AFP)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 16 August 2017 7:47 UTC
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Western-backed Syrian rebels said they had shot down a Syrian military jet on Tuesday and captured its pilot in a desert area in southern Syria near the border with Jordan, where the army had recently advanced and seized border posts.

The Ahmad al-Abdo Forces shot down the Syrian government MiG-21 near Wadi Mahmud in the southern province of Sweida, the group's communications head Fares al-Munjed told AFP.

"The pilot is in our hands. He is injured and being treated," Munjed said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor, confirmed the rebel faction had shot down the plane and captured its wounded pilot.

Sweida province was not included in a US-Russian brokered ceasefire that took effect in nearby areas of the southwest in July.

Days after the deal went into effect, the Ahmad al-Abdo Forces hit a Syrian government jet but it landed safely in government-controlled territory.

Munjed said his group had used a "23-millimetre anti-aircraft gun" to down the warplane on Tuesday.

"We will take care to treat the captured pilot in accordance with international law," he told AFP.

The rebel group's leadership was still debating what would happen to the pilot after his treatment, he said.

The eastern countryside of Sweida province borders Jordan in a front where the Syrian army, alongside Iranian-backed militias, had established control last Thursday over checkpoints and border posts.

Syrian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels who get support from a command room in Jordan run by Arab and Western backers of the insurgency say fighting continues in the area to try to regain lost ground.

They blamed recent losses on the sudden retreat by a Jordanian-backed tribal militia known as Jaish al-Ashair that had patrolled the border area.

This had allowed the army to quickly overrun the border posts and establish a presence in a border strip abandoned in the early years of the conflict.