Syrian army: downed U.S. drone was ‘spying in ISIS-free area’
Syrian state television broadcast footage of what it said was the wreckage, including a wheel and electronic parts
Syria's military downed a U.S. drone in the country's west because it was snooping in an area where ISIS jihadists are not present, a military source told AFP news agency on Wednesday.
"Did the drone come into Syrian territory just to have a picnic?" asked the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria's territory," he told AFP.
The source said the aircraft was not immediately identified as being American, but was "dealt with as a hostile target".
Syrian state media said on Tuesday the country's air defenses shot down the U.S. drone in a northwestern province along the Mediterranean coast.
A U.S. official confirmed that an American Predator drone went down in Syria, but it's not clear whether it was shot down.
At about 1740 GMT, "U.S. military controllers lost contact with a U.S. MQ-1 Predator unarmed remotely piloted aircraft operating over northwest Syria," the U.S. defense official said in an email.
"At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down. We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available," the official said.
Syria's official SANA news agency said earlier the country's air defense forces "brought down a hostile U.S. surveillance aircraft over north Latakia" on the coast. State television broadcast footage of what it said was the wreckage, including a wheel and electronic parts. Soldiers in camouflage could be seen loading some of the debris into the back of a truck.
This would mark the first time the Syrian regime has taken out an American aircraft in its airspace since a U.S.-led coalition fighting the ISIS launched bombing raids over Syrian territory in September last year.
Syria has so far refrained from taking action against the warplanes involved in the coalition's air war.
Damascus has said it was given prior warning before the coalition began the strikes, and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said last year that Washington had pledged its strikes would not hit the Syrian army.