A Russian military plane carrying 14 personnel over the Mediterranean has “disappeared from radar” about 25 kilometres from the Syrian coastline.
Russia’s defence ministry announced that one of its Il-20 turbo-prop planes used for electronic reconnaissance disappeared at about 11pm, Moscow time, and may have been shot down.
The plane was returning to the Russian-run Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province, an area that was under attack by four Israeli F-16 jets at the time.
Who is responsible?
The Russian ministry of defence has pointed the finger at France and Israel, saying: “The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province. At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne which was located in that region”, Russia’s Tass news agency reports.
A French army spokesman said: “The French army denies any involvement in this attack” while an Israeli military spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on foreign reports.”
An unnamed US source has a different theory on the attack, telling CNN that the Russian plane was “inadvertently shot down” by Syrian government anti-aircraft artillery trying to stop the barrage of Israeli missiles.
The US was alerted to the incident after Syrian forces broadcast an urgent search and rescue call over an international frequency, before another unidentified country sent word to the US about the type of aircraft and that the plane had been shot down.
The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organised out of the Hmeymim base, the Russian defence ministry said.