DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:00 P.M.) – A slightly humorous event took place in Idlib on Friday as the leader of Ahrar Al-Sham, Abu Ammar Al-Omar, personally congratulated two of the group’s anti-aircraft fighters on shooting down a Russian military helicopter on March 27 in a mountainous region over Latakia and downing a Syrian MiG-21 jet on March 4 in Idlib.
Just hours after Ahrar Al-Sham claimed to have shot down the Russian chopper last Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry denied losing the aircraft in mention. Al-Masdar News later obtained information from a credible military source who stated the Russian helicopter was damaged but returned safely to Khmeimim Airbase shortly after. Nevertheless, Ahrar Al-Sham stuck to its guns on the initial claim despite not providing any footage as proof.
In addition, although a Syrian MiG-21 was indeed was downed on March 4 due to damage caused by jihadist anti-aircraft fire, the warplane crashed across the border in Hatay province while the pilot was captured hours later by Turkish authorities. According to Ahrar Al-Sham however, the Syrian jet was supposedly downed in Idlib province; this claim was soon after disproved by photos released by the Turkish government.
It was not immediately clear if the Ahrar Al-Sham ceremony was part of a media stunt or not. More pictures of the event can be for below:
Ahrar Al-Sham enjoys backing from Saudi Arabia and is one of the largest rebel factions in Syria, second only to Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. The Islamist group is considered a terrorist organization by Russia, Syria, Iran, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.