A Syrian trainer plane was shot down by militants operating in the northern Hama province. First reports indicate the pilot was killed in the attack. The plane, an L-39 Albatross, was brought down by heavy anti aircraft fire, according to RT.
The Free Idlib Army claimed responsibility for this attack on social media, but further developments appear to show that elements of the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, beheaded the pilot of the plane. This took place during fierce fighting between militants and the Syrian government forces.
Al-Nusra has been one of the U.S. supported players in the civil war in Syria. These people were associated with Al-Qaeda as an offshoot until as recently as July 2016. While they now operate independently of Al-Qaeda, their philosophy is essentially just a milder form of that held by ISIS.
A video later emerged, purportedly showing the aircraft pilot’s dead body lying in the back of a truck, with blood around his neck. The footage appears to show a body surrounded by a group of armed men, who are described in the Telegram channel Directorate 4 as members of Jaysh al-Nukhba, a militant group based in Idlib and Hama.
A second pilot may also have been in the aircraft, although his fate is still unknown, Reuters reported.
Unconfirmed footage from the scene shows a man firing a rocket-propelled weapon into the sky as machine guns are heard in the background. A bright flash of an explosion is seen high above, and then smoke rises from a spot of land in the distance.
We will bring you further details as this story unfolds.