A Syrian MiG, which was reported to have lost contact with its tower, made an emergency landing in Jordan. (File photo)
Al Arabiya, 21 June 2012 - Jordan has granted political asylum to a defecting Syrian pilot on Thursday hours after he landed his jet at a military air base in the kingdom, government spokesman Samih Maaytah told AFP.
“The council of ministers has decided to grant the pilot, Colonel Hassan Merei al-Hamade, political asylum, on his request,” said Maaytah, who is also information minister.
The Syrian air force Russian-made MiG, which was reported missing by Syrian state TV earlier on Thursday afternoon, made an emergency landing at a military base in the neighboring country.
Syrian state television named the pilot as Colonel Hassan Hamada, saying communications were lost with his plane while he was on a training mission near the border with Jordan.
Hamada asked for political asylum in Jordan, Maaytah said earlier on Thursday.
“The Syrian air force Russian-made MiG made an emergency landing at the King Hussein air base in Mafraq,” in northern Jordan near the border with Syria.
“[The pilot] is being debriefed at the moment,” Maaytah had told Reuters.
Syrian state television said communication was lost with a plane of the same model at 10:34 a.m.
The Syrian National Council along with activists had claimed the pilot had defected prior to confirmation of the news.
Georges Sabra, spokesman for the SNC told AFP: “The plane took off at high speed and flew at low altitude from a military base situated between Daraa and Sweida in the south of the country. These planes usually fly in twos or threes, not alone.
“It is certain that the pilot has defected,” he added. “It is not normal that a jet should take off at such speed. It is to avoid detection by the radars.”
He added that the pilot is from Deir Ezzor (in eastern Syria) “and his family is known for its opposition” to Assad’s regime.
Activists said this was the first defection involving an aircraft since the start of the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 120,000 Syrians fleeing the violence in their homeland have taken refuge in Jordan, according to the Amman government. The United Nations has registered 20,000 of them.
More than 15,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday.