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Turkey shoots down Syrian plane as elections heat up

Turkey's political opposition warns Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that "a thief cannot be a hero."
Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan light flares during an election rally in Istanbul March 23, 2014. Erdogan, rallying hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters in Istanbul, said on Sunday that political enemies accusing him of corruption would be crushed by their own immorality. REUTERS/Murad Sezer (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR3I986

As Turkey was shuddering from scandals involving corruption, wiretaps and the closing down of Twitter as it neared the March 30 local elections, the Syria crisis came as a lifesaver to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As the threat that al-Qaeda was going to attack the sovereign Turkish enclave of the Tomb of Suleiman Shah inside Syria turned out to be a non-event albeit one that kept Turkey’s agenda busy for a few days, the real bomb came with the shooting down of a Syrian warplane that was attacking opposition fighters trying to capture the Syrian town of Kassab on the Turkish border. With the shooting down of the plane, the election rallies of the governing party immediately assumed the atmosphere of “our victorious prime minister.”

Turkey — by shooting down the Syrian plane in Turkish airspace over the town of Yayladagi in Hatay province — has now inflicted a second revenge against the shooting down of a Turkish RF-4E Phantom with its two pilots over the Mediterranean near the Syrian border in 2012. On Sept. 16, 2013, Turkey had shot down a Syrian M-17 helicopter over Yayladagi with F-16 fire. 

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