Russia Says One of Its Helicopters Shot Down in Syria

MOSCOW (Reuters/AP) -
Men inspect the wreckage of a Russian helicopter that had been shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, Syria August 1, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Men inspect the wreckage of a Russian helicopter that was shot down in the north of Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, Syria, Monday. (Reuters/Ammar Abdullah)

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that one of its helicopters had been shot down in Idlib province in Syria with five people on board, the Interfax news agency reported.

The Ministry was quoted as saying that three crew members and two officers on board had been killed.  It was cited as saying that the helicopter, an Mi-8 military transport helicopter, had been shot down after delivering humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo as it made its way back to Russia’s main air base in Syria.

The military personnel died a “heroic death” on a humanitarian mission, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters. He said the helicopter had tried to veer away from inhabited areas to avoid civilian deaths.

Peskov also said that Moscow would continue fighting international terrorism “on all fronts” despite threats from the Islamic State terror group.

Videos uploaded online by Syrian opposition activists show the burning wreckage of a Russian helicopter downed in Syria.

The footage was seemingly taken in the first few moments after the helicopter crashed in Idlib province on Monday.

In one video, a rocket pod can be seen next to the wreckage. People standing nearby are seen taking cellphone photos and shouting “All-hu Akbar,” G-d is great in Arabic.

The helicopter appears to have broken up as it crashed. In another video, its tail can be seen lying separately from the aircraft’s body in flames.

On Sunday, Islamic State posted a nine-minute video message, calling on its members to carry out jihad, holy war, in Russia.

Russian forces are supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s five-year-old civil war.

Monday’s developments come a day after Syrian rebels launched the offensive to break up the government’s siege of the eastern, rebel-held part of Aleppo.

Opposition activists say intense fighting is still ongoing in Aleppo. The military official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. He did not elaborate.