Updated: August 1, 2016 6:07:15 pm
Russian Defense Ministry on Monday said an Mi-8 helicopter has been shot down in Idlib province in Syria, with 5 on-board declared dead, confirmed Kremlin, as reported by AFP. The ministry hasn’t yet revealed the identities of those on board.
Meanwhile, Singapore-based Straits Times reported that the Mi-8 helcopter was a transport helicopter that was shot down after delivering humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo. It was making it way back to Russia’s main air base.
Russia’s RT news agency had a statement from the Russian Defence Ministry: “On August 1, an Mi-8 transport helicopter has been shot down by ground fire in Idlib province after a delivery of humanitarian aid to the city of Aleppo. Three crew members and two officers from the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria were on board.”
They 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 Islamic State.
Images shared on social media purportedly showed a dead body stripped of his clothes and Russian identity documents taken from the crashed helicopter. Around 40 km north-east of the crash site, rebel groups are staging an offensive to break a government siege on rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo city.
On Sunday, Islamic State posted a nine-minute video message on YouTube, calling on its members to carry out jihad or holy war in Russia.
This is the third Russian helicopter that has been lost in action in Syria this year. Back in July, an Mi-25 attack helicopter was shot down in Syria’s Palmyra, killing two pilots. The chopper was deployed to engage the advancing Islamic State militants at the request of Syrian Army which was eventually taken down, a Defence Ministry statement had said.
Russia began launching airstrikes in Syria with support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces from as early as September 30, which marked the beginning of Russia’s involvement in Syria’s five-year-long civil war. On October 7, Russia’s Navy marked their entry into the conflict by firing cruise missiles from Caspian Sea reportedly hitting Islamic State targets.
(With inputs from agencies)
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