The Latest: Militants down chopper in Syria, say activists - WFSB 3 Connecticut

The Latest: Militants down chopper in Syria, say activists

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By Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) - The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

8 p.m.

A Syrian opposition activist group says insurgents have shot down a government helicopter gunship killing three officers in the country's southwest.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday's shooting of the helicopter with a missile killed a brigadier general, a colonel and a major.

It said the area where the helicopter was shot down has been witnessing fighting between government forces and fighters of different insurgent groups. The incident occurred near the village of Beit Jin that is close to the border with Lebanon.

The head of the Syrian government delegation to the peace talks in Geneva Bashar Ja'afari confirmed the shooting down of the helicopter in an interview with the Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV.

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7:45 p.m.

The office of the U.N. Special Envoy to Syria has released the so-called 12 Living Intra-Syrian Essential Principles document for life post war in the country which was distributed to the government and opposition delegations meeting in Geneva this week.

The statement said that Staffan de Mistura has requested that the delegations further reflect upon and offer responses to the living principles document when the talks resume next week.

The release came hours after the head of the government delegation, Bashar Ja'afari, told reporters that de Mistura had put forward the principles document without consulting with the delegations.

De Mistrua's office said the principles seek to embody end-state commonalities and seek to offer an enduring perspective on the vision of a future that can be shared by all Syrians, but do not address the question of how to realize that vision.

The 12 principles include respect of and full commitment to Syria's national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity and that the Syrian people alone shall determine the future of their country by democratic means.

It also calls for a strong, unified, meritocratic and national army that carries out its duties in accordance with the constitution and the highest standards.

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7 p.m.

The spokesman for the Syrian opposition insists it has "no preconditions" in a new round of U.N.-mediated peace talks, while suggesting that a looming walkout by the government delegation "is a precondition in itself."

Yahya Aridi spoke to reporters shortly before the opposition met with U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura's team as part of the eighth round of indirect talks under his mediation since 2016.

Earlier Friday, the government delegation led by Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari blasted the opposition for issuing a document that said its ultimate goal is to have President Bashar Assad leave power. Ja'afari said his team would be leaving Geneva on Saturday.

De Mistura credited Russia, which has given powerful military backing to Assad, for a "helpful" role in getting the government to attend the U.N. talks.

Aridi said the opposition is looking for a solution that could lead to "political transition" in Syria, which has been called for under a pivotal U.N. Security Council resolution that is underpinning the talks, but remains a controversial subject between the two sides.

De Mistura has said he expects the talks to run through Dec. 15, including a weekend break before a resumption on Tuesday

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5:30 p.m.

The Islamic State group has released a video allegedly showing a Syrian pilot that the extremists captured more than a year ago being set on fire while alive.

The video released late Thursday allegedly showed Maj. Azzam Eid being chained to a tree while wearing a red uniform before being set on fire. The man could be heard screaming in pain before his body became charred.

It was not clear when the killing occurred and IS did not give further details in the video released. The video included old footage of IS fighters attack in Syria and Iraq.

In April 2016, IS released a video showing what it said was a Syrian government fighter jet that they said they shot down east of the capital Damascus. IS said at the time that the pilot was captured alive.

Eid's fate has been unknown since then.

Eid's killing is similar to that of 1st Lt. Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, a captured Jordanian pilot, that IS fighters burned alive in the northern city of Raqqa in January weeks when his F16 fighter jet crashed in the area a month earlier.

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3:15 p.m.

The head of Syria's government delegation to the peace talks in Geneva has blasted the opposition for a communique in which it stated its ultimate goal was to remove President Bashar Assad from power.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Bashar Ja'afari said his team will be leaving the Swiss city on Saturday. He said Damascus will decide whether the delegation would return Tuesday to resume participation in the talks.

The U.N.'s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said Thursday that the current round of peace talks will run through until Dec. 15.

But Ja'afari said Friday there can be no progress as long as the opposition insists on its so-called Riyadh 2 communique, which he described as "provocative and irresponsible."

He said the communique did not take into consideration the reality on the ground in the war-torn country, which has changed over the past two years in the government's favor.

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2:15 p.m.

An international aid group says booby traps, land mines and ammunition left behind by Islamic State militants in Raqqa are still a source of critical injury, six weeks after the fighting ended.

Doctors Without Borders says 49 patients with blast injuries arrived at a clinic run by the organization in eastern Raqqa in just 10 days at the end of November.

With many roads damaged or blocked, it can take up to two hours by ambulance to reach the nearest hospital with surgical capacity. As a result, people with critical injuries are at risk of dying before or during the journey, it said.

IS militants occupied Raqqa and it was their de facto capital for nearly four years. Kurdish-led forces led by the United States freed the city in mid-October.

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