Syria says 'drone' shot down by Turkish jets, Turkey says 'helicopter'

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkish warplanes on Saturday shot down a Syrian aircraft that violated Turkey’s airspace, media quoted Turkish military sources as saying, but Syrian state television said it was an unmanned drone.

Turkish jets, after taking off from the south of the country, shot down the Syrian craft that had crossed the border into the Hatay region, a Turkish general staff source told the DHA news agency.

“The craft was struck twice but there is no clarity over what it was. Once the identity of the craft has been made clear, the public will be informed,” the source was quoted as saying.

Syria vehemently denied it could have been a manned aircraft.

“It is not true that Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian plane. What was shot down was a small drone flying nearby,” Syrian state TV said, citing a military source.

But Turkey later insisted it was a helicopter.

“A Syrian helicopter was downed that violated the border for a period of five minutes within a seven mile (11 kilometre) limit,” Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz was quoted as saying by the Dogan news agency.

“Having rightly fulfilled their duty, I congratulate the armed forces and kiss the eyes of them all,” Yilmaz said, using a traditional Turkish expression.

He did not give any further details on the helicopter.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as one of the main opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying his exit is key to solving the conflict.

Turkey’s forces in March 2014 shot down a Syrian warplane, and the air force shot down a Syrian helicopter in September 2013.