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Putin: Turkey's Downing Of Warplane Was A 'Stab In The Back'

Turkey says it shot down a Russian warplane that was violating Turkish airspace near the Syrian border on the morning of Nov. 24. 

The plane reportedly crashed in Syrian territory, but two Turkish officials told Al Jazeera that the Russian-built Sukhoi Su-24 was shot down according to the rules of engagement. 

A statement form the Turkish military said the plane was warned “10 times in five minutes” that it was violating Turkish airspace over Hatay province. 

“Our two F-16 planes on air patrol duty intervened ... on November 24, 2015, 9:24am, according to the rules of engagement,” the statement said, according to Al Jazeera. 

Efforts are still being made to figure out what happened to the two pilots, BBC notes. At least one was reported dead by Syrian rebels.

The Russian defense ministry was quoted by TASS Russian News Agency as saying that “throughout its flight, the aircraft remained exclusively above Syrian territory," and that “objective monitoring data shows it," Al Jazeera reports.

The ministry also noted that the jet was shot down from the ground, but Russian President Vladimir Putin contradicted that statement later that day.

“Our aircraft was downed over the territory of Syria, using air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16," Putin said. "It fell on the Syrian territory 4 kilometers from Turkey.”

He likened the downing of the plane to a “stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists,” according to both Al Jazeera and BBC.

“I can’t qualify what happened today as anything else," he added.

Such an incident is just what many experts had feared since Russia began air operations against opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad so close to NATO-backed Turkey’s border, BBC reports.

Tensions were already high after Turkey scrambled two F-16s last month in response to a Russian plane entering the country’s airspace, according to Al Jazeera.

Russia reportedly called the violation a mistake, but Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, warned at that time: “Turkish armed forces are clearly instructed. Even if it is a flying bird it will be intercepted.”

Sources: Al Jazeera,BBC, The Guardian / Photo credit: U.S. Navy via Matt Morgan/Flickr, Dmitry Terekhov/Flickr

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