Moscow: The Free Syrian Army rebel group has claimed it had shot down a government-operated military helicopter near Damascus.

The rebels posted a video on YouTube of the helicopter going down in flames. The video, the veracity of which could not be confirmed, appeared to show a Mil Mi-8 helicopter gunship catch fire, and spiral dive into the ground.

Al Arabiya said the Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for shooting the helicopter down.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported the crash, said helicopter gunships had been in action on Monday in support of government units against rebels in the western Damascus neighbourhood of Jobar.

Syrian state-run media confirmed the helicopter had crashed but did not give details. Earlier this month, rebels shot down a MiG-23 fighter-bomber with a heavy machine-gun, which was also posted on YouTube.

The loss of that aircraft was later confirmed by the government, which said it had gone down for "technical reasons". The Syrian conflict has claimed up to 20,000 lives, according to estimates by various groups.


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