Damascus (GPA) – Several terrorist groups in Syria claim to have shot down a Syrian jet, likely using a US missile system.
Tahrir al-Sham (the Syrian branch of al Qaeda), and the Free Idlib Army (an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army) took responsibility for shooting down a Syrian jet yesterday and likely killing two pilots. The incident took place in the Hama region, where the Syrian and Russian militaries are currently focusing renewed attention on smaller terror groups now that Daesh is defeated.
Following the downing of the fighter jet, Syrian forces dispatched a helicopter in an attempt to locate the two pilots. Unfortunately, the pilots were found by rebels on the ground before the Syrian helicopter arrived. The current status of one pilot remains unknown, however, video of the first pilot dead in the back of a truck has allegedly been released by local militant group Jaysh al-Nukhba.
While Syrian ‘rebels’ shooting down aircraft isn’t new, this latest incident is causing some concern following allegations made by some sources over what weapon was used to take down the jet. Pro-western sources have remained relatively silent on how precisely the rebels took down a jet, with only a handful of outlets reporting it was hit by anti-aircraft “weapons,” possibly machine gun fire.
There is, however, a different story emerging from other media outlets such as Russia Today (RT), which claims the militants in Syria possibly used much more controversial weapons to hit the Syrian plane. According to RT some video that allegedly shows the rebels who hit the Syrian jet shows them firing a rocket-propelled weapon which some suspect could be a US-supplied Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPAD).
The distribution of these MANPAD systems was initially banned under the Obama regime but was approved by the US Congress late in 2016 shortly before Donald Trump took power. The vote caused controversy from within Washington and across the globe as many feared who could receive the weapons through the notoriously bad US process of “vetting” rebel groups.
Now it seems as if the many people’s fears have proven justified as more reports continue to emerge that it was likely some kind of MANPAD that struck the Syrian plane. While some sources claim it may have been a Russian system, this still doesn’t change the fact that the ‘rebels’ can’t be trusted with this type of equipment.
We also know, that even if the MANPAD system used against the Syrian jet was Russian in origin, that doesn’t mean the US didn’t supply it. There is still a high likelihood that even a Russian system could have come through the expansive US arms network, shown to run through shady arms dealers in former Soviet republics.
The US still hasn’t acknowledged this latest atrocity by their proxies in Syria, and it’s doubtful they will. The groups who have claimed the downing of the jet, on the other hand, are some of the factions invited to the Russian-led Syrian peace talks.
To attend this crucial summit, these militant factions have been told the first requirement is to accept Bashar Assad remaining as president. This latest attack proves this condition may be a non-starter as far as the Salafists are concerned.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.