SAN SALVADOR — Leftist rebels shot down a fighter-bomber with a surface-to-air missile Friday in eastern El Salvador, the government said. One crewman was killed, and another bailed out wounded.
A government communique said the A-37 Dragonfly jet was struck by a Soviet-designed missile near Santa Elena, about 80 miles east of San Salvador. At the time, the jet was reportedly providing air support to soldiers battling rebels.
If the government's report is correct, it would apparently be the first time a government warplane has been shot down by a missile in El Salvador's 11-year-old civil war. Last year, the rebels used machine guns to down another military jet.
Earlier Friday, the armed forces press office had said the plane crashed because of a mechanical failure it did not specify.
The government communique, broadcast Friday night, claimed the missile was one of several supplied to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front rebels--also known as FMLN--by the leftist Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua before it relinquished power April 25.
Such weapons represent "extremely dangerous acts that could affect the political stability of the country," the communique said.