March 31, 2016 / 4:47 PM / 2 years ago

Turkey detains suspected killer of downed Russian pilot: report

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish authorities have detained a man suspected of killing a Russian pilot after his plane was shot down by a Turkish jet near the Syrian-Turkish border last November, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported on Thursday.

Russian defense officials said at the time that the pilot had managed to eject from his stricken plane only to be killed by ground fire from militants inside Syria. His navigator survived but a Russian marine was killed during the rescue mission.

The incident wrecked relations between Russia and NATO member Turkey. Moscow responded with fury, calling the episode a pre-planned provocation and imposing a raft of economic sanctions in retaliation.

It was not immediately clear whether the reported arrest of the man, whom Hurriyet identified as Alparslan Celik, a fighter from a Turkish-backed Turkmen brigade in Syria, had been made in connection with the killing of the pilot.

Hurriyet said he was arrested in a restaurant in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir in a group of 14 people, all of whom were also detained.

Turkish officials were not immediately available to confirm the report.

Turkey says it shot down the Russian jet in its air space after it ignored repeated warnings. Russia says it was flying over Syria and was struck unprovoked.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Gareth Jones

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