Monday, August 1, 2016

Russian transport helicopter shot down in Syria, killing all five aboard.

A Russian M-8 helicopter was shot down in Syria killing all five crew members on board. New York Times. Two officers and three enlisted men died in the attack, which is the worst loss of life for Russia since they joined the fighting in Syria. The helicopter was shot down after delivering humanitarian supplies to villages near the besieged city of Aleppo. These Shiite villages had been cut off by Sunni rebels for quite some time. Video showed men on the ground celebrating the destruction and held up the ID's of two of the Russians. No one has taken credit for the attack so far. 

A Russian MI-8 helicopter similar to the one that was destroyed. Aleksander Markin.

My Comment:
Yet another aviation disaster for Russia. Losing five airmen like this is a major blow to the Russians. I feel for them, since this was a humanitarian mission. Though obviously the forces on the ground that shot down this helicopter didn't know that, I kinda doubt that they cared. Still, this is a major tragedy for the Russians and just goes to show that they are sacrificing in Syria. 

I've seen some rather graphic footage on Twitter showing one of the dead men being abused and dragged through the dirt. Another clip showed a man dancing on another dead body. The tweets claim that they men abusing the dead Russians are from Jaish al-Fatah, AKA the Army of Conquest, which is an alliance between the al-Nusra Front (now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and so called secular rebels. I have no way of verifying that information whatsoever, but given where this helicopter went down it is at least plausible. I do believe that the men that desecrated these dead men were Jihadists of some sort. I also don't expect the bodies to be released to their families either. 

The Russians will not like seeing their men abused like this. I am not Russian and I was completely disgusted by it. Dragging mangled corpses through the dirt and dancing on their bodies is a clear sign of disrespect and goes far beyond the norms of warfare. I am guessing the Russians that see these images will want revenge and will continue to support the war in Syria. I kind of wish the Russians had aircraft in the area to immediately strike these people, but unfortunately that did not happen. 

It's unclear who shot down this helicopter. Jaish al-Fatah is a primary suspect though. Either it was al-Nusra or their rebel allies that did it. There just aren't any other factions in the area, ISIS doesn't have troops anywhere near the west side of Aleppo. 

I also have no idea how the aircraft was shot down. Other helicopters have been downed by MANPADS, but I think someone would have mentioned it if that had been the case. My guess is that it was by a crew serviced anti-aircraft gun. That would be more then capable of taking it down. It is also possible that the helicopter just crashed due to mechanical failure, but that seems unlikely. 

Whoever did this will gain quite a bit of propaganda value out of this attack. It's clear that people are already celebrating the deaths of these five men. And Jihadi twitter is laughing at the claims that this was a humanitarian mission. I have to say that it seems very unlikely that this wasn't a humanitarian mission. Though the MI-8 can carry weapons, it makes sense that this was a supply run to the cut off Shiites in the Aleppo area. The simplest explanation is that the Russians are telling the truth. 

Aleppo is a mess right now and the city may very well fall soon. This will be a huge blow to the rebels and may spell the end for the non-Jihadist rebels left in the country. It will also be a major blow for al-Nusra since they have been providing support and fighting in the battle there. Destroying this helicopter will be a minor victory for them as they are losing the war in Aleppo. 

I hope that the city finally falls. With the rebels largely defeated Assad and the Russians can shift their focus to the Jihadist groups left in Syria. ISIS and al-Nusra both need to be defeated and the sooner that happens the better. With Aleppo under government control, they can then concentrate on liberating Raqqa and reliving the besieged city of Dier ez Zor. The war won't be over but we might finally be nearing the beginning of the end for the Syrian Civil War... 

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