Syrian rebels shoot down warplane, capture pilot south of Aleppo
Separate attack on Kurdish neighbourhood in Aleppo kills 9
A warplane was shot down and the pilot captured on Tuesday by rebels in an area south of the Syrian city of Aleppo, where insurgents are battling the Syrian army backed by allied militias, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
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Syria's military confirmed that a plane on a reconnaissance mission had been shot down and said it was hit by a surface-to-air missile. The pilot had bailed out and efforts were underway to rescue him, it said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from al-Qaeda's Nusra Front group captured the pilot and took him to one of their headquarters in the area.
There was no immediate rebel comment on the use of an anti-aircraft missile. The Observatory said a plume of smoke was seen as the plane caught fire before it fell in the Talat al-Iss highland, where al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels have come under heavy bombardment by Syrian and Russian planes since they captured the area this week.
An amateur video posted online showed a man who appeared to be a pilot as he was being captured by militants in the area.
"Shame on you, you filthy pig," some of the fighters said as they surrounded the man. A fighter could be also heard shouting "take away his gun."
The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events.
Rebels demand anti-aircraft weapons
Aerial supremacy has been a major advantage for the Syrian army that has been battling insurgents seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Foreign-backed rebels have long demanded anti-aircraft weapons to offset the impact of devastating aerial raids by Syrian forces and, since September, also by Russian planes. But their backers have been wary of delivering weapons that could fall into the hands of hardline groups.
Last month, Syrian rebels denied a Russian Defence Ministry report that an anti-aircraft missile had been used to shoot down a Syrian warplane in Hama province. Officials in three rebel groups contacted by Reuters reiterated previous statements that that plane had been shot down with anti-aircraft guns.
A fragile "cessation of hostilities" truce has held in Syria for over a month as the various parties try to negotiate an end to the five-year-old civil war. But the truce excludes ISIS and Nusra Front, and air and land attacks by Syrian and allied forces continue in parts of Syria where the government says the groups are present.
9 killed in Kurdish neighbourhood
Syrian state media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say militant shelling of a predominantly Kurdish neighbourhood in the northern city of Aleppo has killed at least nine people.
The activist group says Tuesday's shelling came amid clashes between militants, including members of al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, and Kurdish fighters. The activist group says nine were killed.
The state SANA news agency says the rocket attack on the city's Sheik Maqssoud neighbourhood killed 14 and wounded about 50.
Sheikh Maqsoud is on the northern edge of Aleppo and has been repeatedly targeted by militants over the past few months amid fighting on its outskirts.
Attacks near Iraq border
On Monday, state media reported that insurgents fired dozens of shells at the same neighbourhood, killing eight and wounding more than 20.
In eastern Syria, ISIS launched an attack on a government air base near the city of Deir el-Zour that is close to the Iraqi border, according to the Observatory. A video obtained by The Associated Press showed an army tank moving and soldiers running in the area of fighting.
The fighting in Deir el-Zour province came a day after rebels captured two villages in Aleppo province from ISIS, according to the Observatory and LCC.
ISIS has been fighting on several fronts in Syria and lost territory in central and northern Syria in battles with government forces and the U.S.-backed predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces.
Moscow peace talks
United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura, the mediator of Syrian peace talks, is travelling to Moscow on Tuesday to discuss preparations for the next round of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, de Mistura's office said.
Russia and the United States are the main co-sponsors of the peace talks, which are expected to resume with the opposition delegation on April 11, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday, missing de Mistura's "target date" of April 9.
Syria's government delegation is expected to arrive on April 14. The Moscow meeting was arranged at de Mistura's initiative, his office said.
The so-called "proximity talks" between Assad's envoys and representatives of the opposition adjourned last month, after nearly two weeks during which de Mistura shuttled between the delegations.
The talks achieved no significant breakthroughs. UN-designated terror groups such as the ISIS group and the Nusra Front, are not involved in the talks or the ceasefire.
With files from The Associated Press