Syria rebel group downs warplane, captures pilot

AFP , Tuesday 5 Apr 2016

Rebel fighters and civilians gather around the wreckage of a Syrian warplane that was shot down in the Talat al-Iss area, south of Aleppo, Syria April 5, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

A Syrian rebel group allied with Al-Qaeda said it had downed a warplane over northern Syria on Tuesday, with the pilot reportedly captured.

In a statement on Twitter, Ahrar al-Sham, a hardline Islamist group that fights alongside Al-Qaeda's local affiliate, said it "shot down a warplane (over the town of Al-Eis) that was conducting airstrikes".

Earlier, a rebel source had confirmed that a regime warplane had been shot down, but said it was likely by fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front.

The source said the pilot had been taken alive.

Video footage circulating on social media purported to show the scene where the plane came down, with a dozen men crowding around a man lying in the dirt.

Some of them cry: "He's Syrian, he's Syrian!" and others yell: "Get his weapons off him!"

AFP could not confirm the authenticity of the footage.

Last month, Islamist rebels shot down a regime warplane over the village of Kafr Nabuda in the central province of Hama.

Ahrar al-Sham is allied with Al-Nusra across swathes of northern and northwest Syria, in a coalition called the "Army of Conquest."

On Friday, Al-Nusra and its allies pushed regime loyalists out of Al-Eis, a strategic town in Aleppo province.

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