Syrian Pilot Granted Asylum in Jordan
The pilot of a warplane who had been reported missing by Syrian Air Force authorities during a training mission on Thursday flew to neighboring Jordan where he sought and was granted asylum, and Syria denounced him as a traitor.
It was the first time since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 16 months ago that a Syrian Air Force officer defected with a commandeered aircraft, and seemed to be a propaganda coup for the rebels seeking his overthrow. Some military analysts in the region said the move set a potentially perilous precedent, raising questions about the cohesiveness of the Air Force. Army defectors have swelled rebel ranks virtually since the earliest days of armed uprising.
Jordan’s information minister, Sameeh Maaytah, said the pilot of the MiG-21 made an emergency landing at a Jordanian military air base and asked for political asylum. After a cabinet meeting, the request was granted, he said.
News reports said the pilot had landed in Mafraq, a northern town near the border with Syria.