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Syrian Military Helicopter Reported Down Near Damascus

September 20, 2012

Syria's Information Ministry says a Syrian military helicopter that crashed near Damascus hit the tail of a passenger plane with 200 people on board.

A ministry statement carried by state media said the jet landed safely in Damascus and nobody was injured.

Syrian state television earlier on September 20 said a helicopter crashed in the town of Douma, east of Damascus.

The report did not give a cause for the crash, but the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed the aircraft had been shot down by forces fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

There are no reports of casualties.

AP quoted an anti-Assad activist in Douma as saying Syrian military jets and helicopter gunships had been flying over Douma for hours before the crash.

In related news, there are reports of scores of people being killed or wounded by an explosion at a filling station in Syria's northern Raqa Province.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted activists who say the explosion at the village of Ein Issa was thought to have been caused by a government air strike.

Activists said at least 110 people were killed or injured by the blast. Ein Issa is about 40 kilometers from the Turkish border.

It is in an area where there recently has been heavy fighting between rebels and regime forces.

Early on September 19, after an overnight battle, rebels seized a border crossing into Turkey at the town of Tal Abyad in Raqa Province.

Further details about the explosion were not immediately available.

Friends Of Syria Meet

Meanwhile, diplomats from more than 60 countries are meeting near the Dutch city of The Hague to discuss economic sanctions against Syria's ruling regime.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told reporters at the start of the Friends of the Syrian People meeting that the financial sanctions are intended not only to lessen the regime's military power, but ultimately to help drive Assad out of office.

"It's not a question of whether he will leave, but when he will leave," Rosenthal said.

The Friends of the Syrian People is a coalition set up to discuss the situation in Syria after the UN Security Council was unable to reach agreement on a resolution condemning Assad's regime.

An estimated 23,000 people have been killed in the 18 months since the uprising against Assad began.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/syria-helicopter-down-assad/24714312.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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