World Bulletin / News Desk
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz on Tuesday denied claims by a Dubai-based news channel that two Turkish pilots who died in June after their jet was downed by Syrian air forces were killed by the Syrian military after surviving the crash.
Responding to questions by reporters, Yılmaz said the Foreign Ministry examined the claims and its findings have shown that the allegations are “for certain not true.”
“Such claims should not be given credit,” the minister added.
The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel reported on Saturday that it obtained newly leaked Syrian intelligence documents with the assistance of members of the Syrian opposition that suggest that Capt. Gökhan Ertan and Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy were captured alive after their fighter jet was shot down on June 22, 2012, and were later killed by Syrian forces.
The RF-4E Phantom, an unarmed reconnaissance jet, crashed off the Syrian coast on June 22 amid tensions between Turkey and Syria over Syria's brutal crackdown on an anti-regime uprising. Syrian authorities claimed responsibility for downing the jet immediately following the incident but defended the action, saying that Syrian air defense was forced to react immediately to a Turkish jet flying low at 100 meters (330 feet) inside Syrian airspace in what was “a clear breach of Syrian sovereignty.” Syria also said the plane was downed by anti-aircraft fire, rather than by a missile, well within its airspace.
Turkey, on the other hand, maintained that the plane was shot down by a missile outside Syrian airspace -- 13 miles off the Syrian coast -- while it was on a solo mission to test domestic radar systems.