Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Syrian Forces Shoot Down Turkish Plane; Syria Reports That Military Craft Entered Its Airspace; Turkey Vows to 'Take Necessary Steps' in Response; SATURDAY'S BEST

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Syrian Forces Shoot Down Turkish Plane; Syria Reports That Military Craft Entered Its Airspace; Turkey Vows to 'Take Necessary Steps' in Response; SATURDAY'S BEST

Article excerpt

ANKARA, Turkey - Syria said Friday that it shot down a Turkish military plane that entered Syrian airspace, and Turkey vowed to "determinedly take necessary steps" in response.

It was the most clear and dramatic escalation in tension between the two countries, which used to be allies before the Syrian revolt began in March 2011. Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime's brutal response to the country's uprising.

Late Friday, Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, said the military spotted an "unidentified aerial target" that was flying at a low altitude and at a high speed.

"The Syrian anti-air defenses counteracted with anti-aircraft artillery, hitting it directly," SANA said. "The target turned out to be a Turkish military plane that entered Syrian airspace and was dealt with according to laws observed in such cases."

Turkey issued a statement Friday night after a two-hour security meeting led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that Syrian forces had downed the plane and that the two Turkish pilots remained missing.

It said Turkey "will determinedly take necessary steps" in response, without saying what those actions would be.

"Following the evaluation of data provided by our related institutions and the findings of the joint search and rescue efforts with Syria, it is understood that our plane was downed by Syria," the statement said, without providing other details.

Relations between Turkey and Syria were already tense before the downing of the F-4 fighter on Friday.

Turkey has joined nations such as the U.S. in saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down because of the regime's brutal suppression of the uprising in his country. Turkey also has set up refugee camps on its border for more than 32,000 Syrians who have fled the fighting.

Syria and Turkey have expelled each other's ambassadors, and Syria has accused Turkey of supporting Syrian opposition and even allowing Syrian rebels to operate out of Turkish soil. …

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