June 19, 2017 - 10:30 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian army jet on Sunday, June 18 in the southern Raqqa countryside, with Washington saying the jet had dropped bombs near U.S.-backed forces and Damascus saying the plane was downed while flying a mission against Islamic State militants, Reuters reports.
A Syrian army statement released on Syrian state television said the plane crashed and the pilot was missing in the first such downing of a Syrian jet by the United States since the start of the conflict in 2011.
The army statement said it took place on Sunday afternoon near a village called Rasafah.
The "flagrant attack was an attempt to undermine the efforts of the army as the only effective force capable with its allies ... in fighting terrorism across its territory," the Syrian army said.
"This comes at a time when the Syrian army and its allies were making clear advances in fighting the Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist group," it added.
The U.S. Central Command later issued a statement saying the Syrian plane was downed "in collective self-defense of Coalition-partnered forces," identified as fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqah.
It said that "pro-Syrian regime forces" had earlier attacked an SDF-held town south of Tabqa and wounded a number of fighters, driving them from the town.
The U.S.-led coalition has in recent weeks escalated its aerial bombing campaign in northern Syria and Raqqa province. U.S.-backed forces have encircled the city of Raqqa and captured several districts from the militants.
The Syrian army, which has been taking territory from retreating Islamic State militants in the eastern Aleppo countryside, has moved into Raqqa province and seized back some oil fields and villages that had been under the militants' control for almost three years.