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A RUSSIAN fighter jet has crashed off the Syrian coast of Latakia, killing both pilots, according to local media agencies. The Russian military said the two-seater Sukhoi-30 multi-role fighter jet downed in the Mediterranean after taking off from the Khmeimim air base. Dramatic unverified images circulating on Twitter taken from the port city of Jabla show a plume of smoke rising from the sea, where the plane is thought to have crashed. 

A defence ministry statement said the jet was not shot down, according to Russian media. 

Moscow said its two crew members had tried in vain to save the plane until the last moment.

The RIA news agency said the crash may have been caused by a bird strike.

The minstry said:"According to preliminary information, the reason for the aviation disaster could have been birds getting into the engine. 

"The plane was not struck by any projectile."

The plane was among Russia's most advanced and performed its maiden flight in 2012. In Syria, it was used to launch air-to-ground missiles at rebel targets and to escort attack jets and strategic bombers.

Russia is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has military bases in the coastal areas of Syria. 
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