Syrian fighter pilot defects with plane | News | DW | 21.06.2012
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Syrian fighter pilot defects with plane

In a new blow to the Syrian regime, a fighter pilot has applied for political asylum in Jordan, officials there have said. It was the first defection of an air force pilot since the uprising began in Syria 15 months ago.

The pilot landed his MiG-21 jet at a Jordanian military base on Thursday and asked for asylum, authorities in the neighboring country said.

Syria's state television said contact was lost with the fighter jet, which was reportedly on a training mission, at 10:34 a.m.

It landed at a Jordanian base in Mafraq, near the border, minutes later, Jordan's armed forces said.

Syria has refrained from using fighter planes in its attempts to quash rebels.

The defection will add to the strain on the neighbors' relations. Jordan says over 120,000 Syrians have fled there since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad started in March 2011. Hundreds of the refugees are military servicemen or police officers, who Syria has sought to have extradited.

ncy/sej (AP, AFP, Reuters)