UPDATED: Syria army plane crashes in rebel-held town: Monitor

AFP , Monday 3 Aug 2015

A Syrian military aircraft crashed while on a bombing run over the rebel-held northwestern town of Ariha on Monday, leaving at least 23 people dead, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear how many of the dead were from the crash and how many from the prior bombardment.

"It was flying at a low altitude when it had a mechanical failure," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"At least 23 people, including two children, were killed. Five of them have not been identified," said Abdel Rahman, citing medical officials and residents inside the town.

He added that at least 70 people were wounded.

"Six people are still under the rubble, and we don't know if they are alive or dead," he said.

Residents cited by the Observatory said the plane had crashed near a vegetable market, causing "a huge blast".

The Observatory, which relies on a wide network of activists, medics, and fighters throughout war-torn Syria, said the fate of the pilot was unknown.

The Damascus regime has relied heavily on its monopoly of air power in the four-year-old civil war, repeatedly pounding rebel-held towns.

It has lost a number of aircraft, some to rebel fire, some to mechanical failure.

In mid-January, at least 35 government troops were killed when a military aircraft crashed in Idlib.

The province has since been largely overrun by a rebel alliance including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which seized Ariha on May 28.

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