June 22, 2012
Syria has shot down a Turkish aircraft, according to Lebanon’s Hezbollah-owned al-Manar television station.
“Syrian security sources confirmed to a Manar correspondent in Damascus that Syrian defense forces shot down the Turkish fighter jet,” the Beirut-based station reported on Friday. The report said the F-4 fighter went down in the Mediterranean with two pilots onboard.
Turkish state-run television said Turkey’s coast guard launched a search in Syrian waters. It was reported that a parachute was recovered.
It is not clear why the Turkish aircraft was over Syrian territory. The Turkish government said in a statement that it lost radar and radio contact with the plane after it took off from Erhac Airport in the eastern province of Malatya.
Earlier this month, it was reported the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is operating in Turkey with the support of the country’s intelligence agency, MIT, and had received weapons from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The FSA acknowledged they received Kalashnikov assault rifles, BKC machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weaponry from Gulf countries and that Turkey was assisting in the delivery of the weapons, according to The Independent.
“Turkey is sheltering the FSA right on the border, only a few meters — and not kilometers — away from Syrian territory,” journalist Pepe Escobar reported in April. “Turkey has now advanced right to the border, enabling a back-and-forth by heavily weaponized guerrillas/mercenaries to attack a sovereign state… Imagine a similar scenario happening, say, at a Mexican-US border in Arizona or Texas.”
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that “small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.”
The CIA is considering providing “satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements” and “whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service,” according to the Times.
In January, it was reported that MI6, the CIA, and British SAS are in Syria working with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council to overthrow the al-Assad regime. The Free Syrian Army is widely recognized as a creation of NATO. It is comprised largely of militants from the Muslim Brotherhood – itself an asset of British intelligence – and is funded, supported, and armed by the United States, Israel, and Turkey.
Turkey’s lack of explanation on why a fighter jet was shot down over Syria leaves the door open for speculation that Turkey is providing air cover for FSA troops inside the country.