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June 21, 2012

Syrian MiG-21 fighter pilot defects to Jordan

A Syrian fighter pilot has landed has a Russian-built MiG-21 fighter jet at the King Hussein military airbase in the north of Jordan and been granted political asylum.

By Daniel Garrun


A Syrian fighter pilot has landed a Russian-built MiG-21 fighter jet at the King Hussein military airbase in the north of Jordan.

The pilot, Col Hassan Mirei al-Hamadeh, was reported as having gone missing during a training mission by Syrian state television.

According to Jordan’s Minister of Information Samih al-Maaytah the pilot is currently being debriefed and has been granted asylum.

His plane was near the southern border when contact was lost at around 10:34 (07:34 GMT).

Thousands of Syrian Army soldiers have defected since the beginning of the uprising in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad 15 months ago, but this incident is the first reported defection involving a military aircraft.

It comes as violence in the Syrian city of Homs has recently escalated to such an extent that the Red Cross has been unable to evacuate elderly and vulnerable civilians.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of escalating the conflict by supplying Syria with attack helicopters, although US officials later acknowledged the helicopters had been refurbished.

Caption: The original MiG-21, a short-range interceptor, was manufactured in Russia and has been operational with the air forces of at least 33 countries.

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