Syrian Pilot Defects With Plane

He's staying in Jordan on 'humanitarian grounds'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2012 11:51 AM CDT
A Russian fighter jet, of the kind that Syria recently purchased, is seen in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, file)

(Newser) – A Syrian fighter pilot deserted today—and he took his jet with him. A pilot identified as Colonel Hassan Hamada, 44, went AWOL during a training mission near the Jordanian border today, then landed in Jordan and requested political asylum, Reuters reports. His motives aren't terribly mysterious: His hometown of Kfar Takharim has been under artillery and helicopter fire in recent days. Hamada reportedly smuggled his family to Turkey before his fateful flight.

Jordanian officials are currently debriefing Hamada. They tell the AP he'll be allowed to stay in the country on "humanitarian grounds," since if he returned to Syria he might be tortured or killed. Syria is one of Jordan's top Arab trading partners. The defection is noteworthy because the air force has long been considered one of Assad's most loyal units. Plus, as the Atlantic puts it, "Defecting from the army is one thing, but flying off in a blaze of glory makes for quite the symbolic kiss-off." (Read more Syria stories.)

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