Beirut: A Syrian Islamist rebel group on Saturday shot down a regime warplane over a village in central Hama province, a monitoring group said.

A pro-government Facebook group acknowledged that a MiG-21 warplane went down over Kafr Nabuda but said it was due to “technical difficulties”, denying it had been shot down.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ahrar Al Sham fired two heat-seeking missiles at the military aircraft flying over Kafr Nabuda.

“The first missile missed but the second one struck the plane,” Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP.

He said the jet fighter crashed in government-held territory but that the fate of its crew remained unknown.

The pro-government Facebook group said the pilot of the MiG-21 “managed to eject safely” and was rescued by Syrian government forces.

There was no immediate word from the Syrian military.

Syrian rebels have previously shot down Syrian warplanes with anti-aircraft guns.

They have called on their foreign backers including Saudi Arabia to supply them with anti-aircraft missiles to confront Syrian and Russian warplanes. But they have said these weapons have so far not been provided, reflecting concerns that they could end up in the hands of groups such as Daesh.