Syrian Rebels Claim They Shot Down Fighter Jet With A Missile : The Two-Way Syrian rebels claim to have shot down a government MiG fighter jet and captured one of its pilots. It appears to be one of the first times Syrian rebels have successfully used a type of portable missile and could mark a turning point as the rebels challenge the regime's advantage in the air.
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Syrian Rebels Claim They Shot Down Fighter Jet With A Missile

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Syrian Rebels Claim They Shot Down Fighter Jet With A Missile

Syrian Rebels Claim They Shot Down Fighter Jet With A Missile

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

In Syria today, rebels claim they shot down a MIG fighter jet not far from the border with Turkey. That, plus the shooting down of a helicopter yesterday, could mark a turning point in the Syrian conflict. This appears to be the first time that rebels have successfully used a kind of weapon called a MANPAD. It's a portable, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, and it could help neutralize what has long been the Syrian government's biggest advantage over the rebels - its air force.

NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: Rebels say the Russian-made MIG fighter jet was shot down this morning near the town of Daarat Azzah, on the road north of the embattled city of Aleppo.

(SOUNDBITE OF A VIDEO)

MCEVERS: This video shows the plane in flames in a clear blue sky as it falls to the ground. The cameraman says God is great.

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MCEVERS: In another video, rebel fighters carry one wounded pilot from the wreckage. A rebel commander told us the second pilot died. The first pilot is treated in a field hospital.

One medic speaks with an Egyptian accent, another voice in the background says, we want him alive. Then this video is released.

(SOUNDBITE OF A VIDEO)

MCEVERS: It shows a bearded guy in a heavy coat and sunglasses, describing how he shot down the plane with what he calls an Igla rocket that's resting on his shoulder. That's the Russian name for an SA-16 or an SA-18. It's a kind of missile that was used to take out planes during conflicts in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf.

(SOUNDBITE OF A VIDEO)

MCEVERS: The fighter says the rebels seized the weapon when they captured a Syrian army base earlier this month. Rebels have seized similar weapons before but this is the first time they appear to have used this particular system successfully.

Military analysts say this could show that the rebels are building momentum. Up until now, the Syrian regime had the upper hand because it controlled the skies. Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have been killed in airstrikes since the summer. Rebels say they hope the regime will think twice before employing the air force now.

Also today, in a suburb of Syria's capital, Damascus, two massive explosions killed dozens of people. Syrian state media was quick to cast the attack as suicide bombings launched by Al-Qaida-style terrorists. But that claim could not be verified. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for today's attack. TV footage showed a gruesome scene.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

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