Ankara, Nov 24 (IANS) Two pilots who auto-ejected themselves from a Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday near the Syrian border are still alive, but in the hands of rebel groups in the area, local Daily News reported.

The Turkish National Intelligence Organisation is in contact with the rebel groups to hand over the pilots to Turkey, the report quoted Turkey’s security sources as saying.

Earlier reports said that Turkmen rebels claimed they shot dead the Russian pilots after they were ejected from the jet with parachutes.

Russian helicopters are searching for the pilots near the Syrian border, private Dogan News Agency reported.

The Turkish military said the Su-24 had been warned 10 times in five minutes about its violation of Turkish airspace, before two Turkish F-16 jets “interfered”.