Turks say their F-16 shot down a Syrian MiG-23

Turks say their F-16 shot down a Syrian MiG-23

ISTANBUL—Turkey downed a Syrian warplane on Sunday for breaching its airspace, escalating tensions along the border as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to take a tougher stance against President Bashar al-Assad a week before crucial Turkish elections.

Shortly after lunchtime, a Turkish F-16 downed a Syrian MIG-23 with a missile after it failed to heed four warnings to reverse course and cruised slightly inside Turkish airspace, the armed forces in Ankara said.

The jet was shot while still in Syrian territory, just south of Turkey’s border, reflecting Ankara’s commitment to enforcing aggressive engagement rules adopted after Mr. Assad’s commanders downed a Turkish reconnaissance plane in June 2012.

Turkish television showed images of the crashing jet and its vapor trail, marking the first time the country’s forces have downed a Syrian jet since the Syrian uprising began more than three years ago. …

Mr. Erdogan has drawn fire at home and abroad for seeking to silence his political opposition by banning Twitter late Thursday, saying the social-media site failed to abide by court orders to remove content. Opposition parties have called Mr. Erdogan a dictator for the move. …

The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, criticized the government for pursuing reckless foreign policies that endanger the nation. The party accused Mr. Erdogan of seeking to divert voters’ attention to win March 30 local elections, seen as a referendum on the 12-year rule of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. …

“The dictator’s efforts to start a war, the event on the Syrian border today, is dire,”…[tweeted opposition lawmaker Haluk Koc].

The Syrian jet crashed just west of Kassab, near where Islamist rebel factions including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front have been attacking Syrian government forces since Friday as part of a new offensive to expand their foothold to the country’s west coast.

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