A Turkish reconnaissance jet that crashed into the Mediterranean earlier this year was shot down by a Syrian missile, an official report by Turkey's military indicated on Wednesday, following months of guesswork on what caused the F-4 warplane to go down.
The report comes after months of speculations following the June 22 incident, after which Syria denied it had targeted the Turkish aircraft, seeking to avoid a conflict with its one-time ally.
On Wednesday, Turkish daily Hurriyet cited a report by Turkish Chief of General Staff Military Prosecutor’s Office claiming that an investigation of the plane's debris found that a Syrian missile was fired at the F-4, exploding behind it and prompting its crash.
"The missile detonated just behind and to the left of the plane. The blast caused the plane and the pilots to lose the ability to continue a stable flight," the report was quoted as saying, adding that, subsequently, the "plane continuously lost altitude as it banked left, until it crashed into the water in a position slightly tipped to the left with the plane’s nose pointing up."
In addition, Hurriyet quoted the report as indicating that a metallurgic examination found "traces of potassium chlorate, which is used as an oxidizing agent in missile fuels and as the main substance in missile warheads, were found splashed on the plane’s fuselage."
Speaking on conditions of anonymity, security experts told the Turkish daily that the investigation ruled out the possibility that the jet went down over technical issues, adding that the missile that had caused the crash would have to be a long-range projectile, one that would cause an explosion powerful enough to destabilize the plane.
In July, the Turkish military tried to damp down speculation about the loss of one of its warplanes, repeating its assertion the jet was shot down by Syria and by something other than anti-aircraft fire.
Speculation in Turkey has been mounting since the armed forces released a written statement that appeared to contradict previous official accounts of the June 22 incident and suggested the military may be revising its initial stance.
In that statement, the General Staff referred to the aircraft which "Syrian official authorities subsequently claimed to have shot down." The use of the word 'claimed', absent from previous accounts, aroused confusion over an incident which many Turks had initially feared could lead to a war.
Further adding to uncertainty over the plane's fate, the armed forces statement declared no traces of "petroleum-based, combustible or fire accelerant substances, organic and inorganic explosive substance residues, or any kind of ammunition" were found on debris from the wreckage floating on the sea's surface.
The lack of any further explanation in the statement prompted a flurry of speculation in the Turkish media over what had caused the F-4 reconnaissance jet to crash off the coast of Syria and whether it had even been shot down at all.
However, in a subsequent written statement issued at the time, the military reasserted its position the jet had been brought down by Syria and said it had tried to make this clear to the public in all its previous statements.
It said the findings from examinations of the flotsam referred to in the previous statement meant the possibility of the plane being shot down by anti-aircraft fire, "as Syria claims," had "disappeared."
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