A Russian military helicopter has been shot down by rebels in Syria killing all five people on board, it has been revealed.
The aircraft, carrying three crew and two officers, crashed down in the Idlib province in north western Syria on its way home to a Russian airbase.
Gruesome pictures have since emerged showing what is believed to be the body of a Russian pilot being dragged through the dirt and loaded on to a truck.
It comes as mystery surrounded the discovery in the wreckage of an ID card with a picture of a blonde woman.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence said the helicopter was returning to the its main air base in the western province of Latakia following a delivery of humanitarian aid in war-torn Aleppo.
Two activist groups – the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees – say rebels shot down the Mi-8.
‘A Russian Mi-8 military transport helicopter was shot down from the ground after delivering humanitarian aid to Aleppo,’ the defence ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.
‘Three crew members and two officers… were on board.’
In a later statement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added: ‘As far as we know from the information we’ve had from the defence ministry, those in the helicopter died, they died heroically, because they were trying to move the aircraft away to minimise victims on the ground.’
Videos uploaded online by Syrian opposition activists show the burning wreckage the helicopter seemingly taken in the first few moments after it crashed.
In one film, a rocket pod can be seen next to the wreckage. People standing nearby are seen taking cellphone photos and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’ or God is great in Arabic.