Russian military plane vanishes from radar over Syria

Published: September 18, 2018 11:53:15 | Updated: September 19, 2018 14:59:08

Russian military jet IL-20. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Russian military aircraft with 14 people on board has disappeared from radar after flying over Syria, Russia's defence ministry says.

"Connection has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea," the ministry said, according to a BBC report Tuesday.

Contact was lost at about 23:00 local time (20:00 GMT) on Monday, it added.

Russia began military strikes in Syria in 2015 after a request from President Bashar al-Assad, who has stayed in power despite seven years of civil war.

The conflict has so far killed more than 350,000 people.

The incident on Monday reportedly occurred about 35km (22 miles) from the Syrian coast as the Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft was returning to Russia's Hmeimim airbase near the north-western city of Latakia.

"The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province," Russia's Tass news agency reported.

"At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne, which was located in that region."

The fate of the aircraft and those on board is not yet known. A search and rescue operation is under way, co-ordinated through personnel located at the Hmeimim base, the ministry added.

A French military spokesman told a global news agency: "The French army denies any involvement in this attack."

Meanwhile, the Israeli military refused to comment on reports its planes targeted facilities in the Latakia area on Monday, saying: "We don't comment on foreign reports."

A US Pentagon spokesman said: "The missiles were not fired by the US military and we have nothing further at this time."

However, an unnamed US official said Washington believed the plane was accidentally shot down with anti-aircraft artillery by the Syrian government, Reuters reports.

The Syrian government has not yet commented on the incident.

Hmeimim is Russia's main base for air strikes on rebel groups in Syria - strikes that have enabled President Assad's forces to recover much lost ground in the.

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