Image via YouTube/SANA
Syria's state media is screening footage of the remains of a US reconnaissance drone it claims the country's military shot down near the northwestern port city of Latakia on Tuesday evening.The news agency SANA announced the apparent American drone's downing in a TV bulletin. "Syrian air defenses brought down a hostile US surveillance aircraft over north Latakia," claimed the agency, with no further elaboration.
US officials have admitted to having lost contact with one of their MQ-1 Predator drone aircrafts on Tuesday, but have not yet confirmed whether it was brought down by Syrian air defenses. "At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down," said a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.Another American official confirmed that the unmanned aircraft took off from a US base in southern Turkey. Four unarmed Predator drones have been based at Incirlik Air Base near the city of Adana since 2011.A third anonymous official admitted that the drone was flying in the area around Latakia when the incident took place, around 7.40pm in Syria. The Pentagon said it is looking into the incident and further investigations will be conducted.SANA has also released a video reportedly showing the remains of the drone.
Different footage of what it is said to be the drone's wreckage and the craft being seized has also been broadcast by Alikhbaria TV channel.Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is situated on the Mediterranean coast and is a reasonable distance from the areas controlled by the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria.So far, airstrikes by the US-led coalition in the country have largely targeted the provinces of Aleppo and Raqqa, where IS controls territory, and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that IS fighters are almost absent in Latakia Province.Related: Islamic State video claims to show Jordanian pilot being burned alive. Read more here.If confirmed, this would be the first time Syria that has attacked an American aircraft since the coalition started airstrikes against IS there in September 2014. In August 2014, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem stated: "Syria is ready to cooperate and coordinate with regional and international efforts to combat terror in accordance with UN resolutions and respect of Syrian sovereignty."A coalition aircraft crashed in northern Syria in December 2014, leading to the capture of the Jordanian pilot by IS extremists. In February, IS militants released a video showing the airman, Moaz al Kasasbeh, being burned alive while standing inside a cage.Follow Giulia Aloisio on Twitter: @giulia7ar