Syrian pilot defects after landing in Jordan
A Syrian fighter pilot has landed his MiG-21 at an airfield in northern Jordan and defected, according to authorities in the kingdom.
An official said the pilot landed his Russian-made aircraft at the King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, a north Jordanian town near the Syrian border. "The Syrian air force Russian-made MiG made an emergency landing at the King Hussein air base in Mafraq," in northern Jordan near the border with Syria, a government source told AFP on condition of anonymity, without elaborating.
A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Kassem, said the plane had defected to Jordan and that its pilot was seeking political asylum. "The council of ministers has decided to grant the pilot, Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade, political asylum, on his request," said government spokesman Samih Maaytah, who is also information minister.
He also said his group had encouraged the pilot to defect.
Syrian authorities had earlier announced on state TV that they had lost contact with a MiG-21 which was on a training mission. According to Syrian state television, authorities had "lost contact with a MiG-21 while it was on a training mission."
The report said: "The plane, flown by Colonel Hassan Merei al Hamade, was near the southern border of Syria when contact was lost at around 10.34 am (0834 UK time)." "
Officials in Amman say more than 120,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan since an uprising against the regime of Bashar al Assad broke out in February last year.
Some 15,000 people are thought to have died in fighting in Syria during that time.
More than 120,000 Syrians fleeing the violence in their homeland have taken refuge in Jordan, according to the Amman government. The United Nations has registered 20,000 of them.
Source: By the Agency News - 22 June 2012
Photo: The Syrian Air Force MiG-21 Fighter Aircraft