Syrian fighter pilot defects to Jordan
21 June 2012
A Syrian fighter pilot has been granted political asylum after landing at an air base in neighbouring Jordan, it has been confirmed.
The MiG-21 fighter pilot, named as Colonel Hassan Merhi al-Hamadi, was declared missing by Syrian state television earlier in the day after disappearing during a training mission.
Jordan's ministry of information has now confirmed that the pilot landed at King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, northern Jordan, and is being debriefed. A spokesman said Hamadi removed his Syrian air force tags and knelt in prayer on the runway immediately after landing.
The incident marks the first instance of a Syrian pilot defecting with his aircraft, although hundreds of soldiers are said to have defected to join the Free Syrian Army within the country.
Despite fears that the country's air force would use it's attack helicopters against civilians, Russia has confirmed that a ship turned back from British waters after having its insurance revoked was carrying Mi-25 "Hind D" helicopters.
Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We are not breaching anything and we will perform our contractual obligations, which are not outside the restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council."
The ship is said to be heading for the port of Murmansk carrying the three helicopters, which had been refurbished in Russia under an existing contract. The US had said that the delivery of the attack helicopters could significantly escalate the conflict, although it has since accepted that these were refurbished, and not new, helicopters.