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Turkey shoots down Syrian helicopter

Turkey has said it has shot down a Syrian helicopter after it crossed into Turkish airspace. Ankara claims the aircraft was warned repeatedly about an incursion before it was fired upon by missile-armed warplanes.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the helicopter had been shot down after it violated Turkish airspace.

Arinc told reporters on Monday that a Syrian MI-17 helicopter had been was detected two kilometers (1.2 miles) inside Turkish airspace. He added said there was no information about the fate of the crew, with the aircraft having fallen on the Syrian side.

"It was continuously warned by our air defense but as the violation continued, it fell on Syrian soil at 2:25 pm (1125 UTC), having been hit by missiles from our planes," said Arinc.

Turkey's private Dogan news agency said the helicopter had exploded in the air and fallen to the ground, some 400 meters (440 yards) from the Yayladagi district of Turkey's Hatay province, which lies on the border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that a helicopter "that was being used to launch explosives-laden barrels" had crashed around Jabal al-Akrad, a rebel stronghold in Syria's coastal Latakia province.

Turkey has warned Syria that it would react decisively to any encroachments along its border in response to fire from the Syrian side toward its border zones.

Although Syria and Turkey were once close allies, relations have soured since the civil war between rebel fighters and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took hold in 2011.

rc/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)