Greek fighter pilot killed in crash after Turkish intercept mission: officials

Athens (AFP) –


A Greek fighter pilot died Thursday when his plane crashed in the Aegean whilst returning from a mission to intercept Turkish jets, officials said.

"A Greek pilot (has entered) the pantheon of heroes," Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said in a tweet.

"He fell... fighting to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

A Greek general staff source told AFP that the Mirage 2000-5 plane was returning from a mission to intercept Turkish fighter jets.

"The mission was over and the plane was returning," the source said.

"We still don't know if there was an actual engagement with the Turkish airforce," the officer added.

State TV ERT said the warplane disappeared shortly before it was due to land at an airfield on Skyros island in the central Aegean.

Greek fighter planes are regularly scrambled to intercept Turkish jets entering what Athens considers Greek airspace over the Aegean.

The accident comes at a period of heightened tension between regional rivals and NATO allies Greece and Turkey.

Earlier this week, Greek soldiers fired warning shots at a Turkish helicopter after it approached the small island of Ro, which is on Greece's border in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and members of his government have escalated verbal attacks on Greece after its failure to extradite eight Turkish soldiers that Ankara said were part of an attempted 2016 coup.

In March, Turkey captured and is still holding two Greek soldiers who crossed the border, allegedly whilst getting lost in the fog on patrol.