Al Qaeda says downs Syrian cargo plane, army says fog causes crash

Al Qaeda says downs Syrian cargo plane, army says fog causes crash
Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front.

BEIRUT - The Syrian wing of al Qaeda, the Nusra Front, said on Sunday it had shot down an army cargo plane carrying food and ammunition overnight, but Syrian state television blamed the loss of the aircraft and its crew on bad weather.

Reuters could not verify either account due to security and reporting restrictions in Syria.

State television quoted a military source as saying the cargo plane crashed due to "weather conditions and heavy fog" on Saturday evening while attempting to land Abu al-Duhur military airport in Idlib province, in the northwest of the country. It said the crew were killed.

However, the al Qaeda wing said on Twitter: "Nusra Front downed a military cargo plane overnight above the Abu al-Duhur military airport."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group monitoring the civil war, said 35 people on board had died when the plane hit an electricity pylon.

Several Syrian air force jets and helicopters have been shot down in Syria's civil war, which erupted after the government cracked down on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

A US-led coalition is flying sorties in Syria to strike the hardline Islamic State group, an offshoot of al Qaeda that is also fighting the Syrian army.

Last month, a Jordanian air force pilot was captured by Islamic State fighters after his plane was downed near the militant group's stronghold of Raqqa in northeastern Syria.

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