Syria’s state news agency, SANA, has published a video purportedly showing the wreckage of a “hostile” surveillance plane and said it was shot down in the same area where the Pentagon confirmed contact was lost with a Predator .
SANA said the Syrian military had downed the plane in northern Latakia and the authorities were conducting an investigation to determine who it belonged to.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Pentagon said it had lost contact with an unarmed Predator but could not confirm whether it was shot down.
The US defense department said in a statement: “We can confirm that at approximately 1.40pm EDT, US military controllers lost contact with a US MQ-1 Predator unarmed remotely piloted aircraft operating over north-west Syria.
“At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down. We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available.”
Syrian state TV broadcast images of the destroyed plane with dramatic music in the background, showing its severed wing, mangled machinery, batteries, circuit boards and wheels.
An unnamed civilian told the channel: “We heard the sound of an explosion and I came out to the veranda, I looked up at the sky and saw a lump falling down.”
News agencies had said that SANA identified the as an American aircraft earlier in a breaking news alert, but it appears to have retracted the statement.
The news comes two days after the broadcasting of an interview with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, in which he appeared to suggest that the US ought to negotiate with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and a day after fresh allegations that the regime used chlorine gas in an attack on a town in Idlib province.
The US-led coalition has generally enjoyed free rein to bomb Islamic State and al-Qaida positions in Syria without being harassed by the country’s air defences.
Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst and the author of a book on Isis, said: “The regime feels emboldened by the recent signs and statements that the American administration will scale down support for the Syrian rebels.
“Allegations that the regime used chlorine gas in an attack in northern Syria are another sign the regime is confident.”
Northern Latakia has recently seen clashes between forces loyal to the Assad regime and opposition fighters who seek to control the strategic Dorin mountain and villages in the area.
The rebels have been keen to bring the fight to Latakia province, the birthplace of the Assad family, which is seen as a key regime stronghold.