Pilot of crashed Syrian jet rescued in Turkey

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Wreckage thought to be from the Syrian jet was found in southern Turkey

The pilot of a Syrian military aircraft that crashed near the border between Syria and Turkey has been found alive and taken to a hospital, officials say.

The Syrian pilot ejected before the crash, in southern Turkey. He has some spinal fractures but is not in a critical condition, reports say.

It is unclear what caused the crash.

An Islamist group which is fighting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said the plane had been shot down, but the Syrian government has not confirmed it.

A Syrian army source had said earlier the air force had lost contact with a fighter jet on a mission near the border, according to the country's state TV.

The pilot was found exhausted after a nine-hour search, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports. He was taken to a hospital in Hatay province.

Officials identified him only as a Syrian national, but medical staff told Reuters news agency his name is Mehmet Sufhan, 56.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said officials were investigating why and how the plane crashed within his country's borders, and which mission it was carrying out.

"A decision regarding [whether he will be sent to Syria] will be made once we clarify all details of this incident," he said.

Earlier Hatay's Governor, Erdal Ata, had said it did not seem to be a case of border violation.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had earlier identified the jet as a Syrian MiG-23. It crashed near the Turkish village of Yaylacik, some 35km (22 miles) from the Syrian border.

Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham tweeted a video which it said showed the plane being "targeted".

It said the plane had been bombing Idlib province in northern Syria when it was shot down by opposition forces.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The aircraft was identified as a Syrian MiG-23 (File photo)

Turkey supports rebel forces in Syria, which oppose the government of Bashar al-Assad. Turkish military forces also operate on the Syrian side of the border, targeting both Kurdish rebel fighters and so-called Islamic State.

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