Turkey retrieves pilot bodies from downed jet
Published Thursday, July 5, 2012
Turkey's armed forces command said on Thursday it had retrieved the bodies of two pilots of a jet shot down by Syria last month, recovering them from the seabed 8.6 nautical miles from the Syrian coast.
It said the bodies were found at a depth of 1,260 meters near the wreckage of the jet which had broken up into eight pieces.
It said the bodies had been flown to the eastern city of Malatya where the jet had taken off from on June 22.
The two men were named by Turkey on Wednesday as Air Force Captain Gokhan Ertan and Air Force Lieutenant Hasan Huseyin Aksoy.
The downing of the plane has increased tensions between the two former allies, already strained by the uprising inside Syria.
Ankara summoned a NATO meeting shortly after the incident and scrambled jets to its borders a number of times, but has so far refrained from retaliatory attacks.
Syria has sought to cool the dispute and President Bashar al-Assad apologized for the deaths.
"We learned that it (the plane) belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 percent 'if only we had not shot it down'," the Cumhuriyet paper quoted Assad as saying in an interview published on Tuesday.
"Turkish people are our brothers. This is an undisputed fact. A slain Turkish citizen means my brother has been killed," he said, adding that the plane had been traveling a route often used by Israeli jets.
Turkey has played host to the armed opposition to President Assad's rule, with Free Syrian Army battalions accused of crossing the border between the countries to carry out attacks.